When BI’s Bottom Line Is Not About Money

6 May

There’s a natural tendency among IT industry vendors, analysts, and journalists to see business intelligence technology through the prism of corporate issues such as improving an enterprise’s efficiency or generating new sales opportunities. While this can be a good thing, it’s not everything that’s possible through an organization’s focus on analytic software.

Sometimes users look through a different lens: one dedicated to saving lives not money.

Take, for example, first responders. For them the bottom line is not profit or loss, but public safety. Information problems for them swirl around, say, crime prevention. John Warden, Manager, Business Performance Section, at the Edmonton Police Services in Edmonton, Alberta, explains, “We’re not talking about numbers or dollars. We’re talking about people’s lives and people’s homes.”

That’s why the 1,700-strong sworn officers working in the province’s capital city use BI software to put roadblocks in front of criminals while opening information pathways to citizens. One way was to create a Web site driven by geographic analytic tools accessible by both the police and the general population.

According to Warden, each morning senior officers review with cops on the beat BI reports that include the latest criminal activity. That data is used to inform where men and women in uniform will be deployed. But more than just after the fact insight, the geographic information builds models of criminal activity, giving the Edmonton Police knowledge about trending problems so officers can patrol in areas before crime can happen.

Warden says, “We’re using BI analytics to point our response officers and investigators in the right direction, to provide a head start in preventing and reducing crime.”

What’s more, the Web site is open to the public. Joanne Graham, Director, Business Intelligence Centre for Edmonton Police services, says, “The same business analytics data about neighborhood crimes are available on a crime-mapping website to the public.” And because any citizen can see the information, they are able to assist the police in assuring the data on the Web site is accurate.

And just as large profit-oriented companies use BI to measure success or failure of a program or product, Warden says the Edmonton Police Services use it to achieve public safety goals. One metric they measure is response time to life and death emergencies, which is set at less than seven minutes. By having those metrics available internally and for the public online, they are able to achieve transparency to their citizens, thus building stronger police-citizen relationships.

Perhaps one of the most obvious uses of information technology tools for saving lives is in health care. BJC Healthcare in St. Louis, has built a central repository of clinical data on patients with specific health problems. That repository, says Tom Holdener Senior Technical Specialist for the 27-hospital organization, greatly improves the efficiency for researchers looking into a specific disease.

He says, “The two-fold goal of the repository was to cut the time and expense it took researchers to go through individual patient records to find qualified patients and, second, to remove patient-identity data in the search process when identified data isn’t needed.”

Information in the repository is fed directly from the on-floor electronic systems where patients get treatment. Researchers have access to the latest structured and unstructured data about individuals and groups within a study, giving them a 360-degree view of patients with a specific malady and how they are responding to treatment. Analytics can deliver trending information on an array of metrics about changes in patient conditions, vastly improving doctors’ ability to respond to patient needs.

So, while business intelligence software is mostly used in the world of profit and loss, it is also becoming a vital tool in the realm of life and death.


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