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Laura Madsen

Hello and welcome to my blog!

About the author >

Laura leads the healthcare practice for Lancet, where she brings more than a decade of experience in business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing for healthcare, and a passion for engaging and educating the BI community.  At Lancet, she spearheads strategy and product development for the healthcare sector. She also works with key accounts across the country in the provider, payer, and healthcare manufacturing markets. Laura is the founder of the Healthcare Business Intelligence Summit, an annual event that brings together top hospitals, insurers, and suppliers in the healthcare business intelligence space. Laura is also the author of the popular book, Healthcare Business Intelligence: A Guide to Empowering Successful Data Reporting and Analytics (Wiley, 2012). You may reach her at lmadsen@lancetsoftware.com.

Editor's note: More healthcare articles, resources, news and events are available in the BeyeNETWORK's Healthcare Channel featuring Laura Madsen and Scott Wanless. Be sure to visit today!

Recently, Lancet appeared in a MinnPost.com article about our iPad revolution.  You can read it here.  We continue to find new and innovative ways to use the technology to make us more productive.  But, Lancet isn’t the only ones.  The iPad continues to garner a lot of attention, and this week, in an article entitled ”Why we think it’s a fantastic idea to give iPads to our employees” Michael Saylor, Chairman and CEO of MicroStrategy said this about the now ubiquitous technology:

”The tablet computer is revolutionary because for the first time it embraces a multi- touch interface in an electronic device light enough to hold in one hand. In doing so, it replaces paper as a delivery mechanism for information and, as a result, stands beside the invention of paper, the printing press, the laser printer and desktop publishing in the history of technological innovation.”

You can read the rest of the Business Insider article by Saylor here.

Posted January 12, 2011 11:51 AM
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There was a LinkedIn discussion posted a few weeks back asking why BI deployments so often failed.  After a number of comments on things like "poor requirements" and "lack of project management" I had to chime in, after all, I have never really seen a BI deployment fail because my project manager missed the deadline, went over budget or under/over scope. 

First, it begs the question:  "What does failed mean?"  If, to you, failed means it costs more than you originally thought then yes, perhaps project management is to blame, or your expectation setting on estimates (another post for another time).  If failed means that you released reports that missed the business users needs then perhaps you can blame poor requirements, but how about looking to your dynamic business model, or the change that has taken place since the last time you actually asked the business what they wanted.

In truth, I wish that it were that easy.  I wish that all I would need is a rock-star project manager and BA to address these relatively simple aspects of BI deployments and all would be grand.  Frankly, I have worked with rock-star project managers and BA's (you know who you are) and the deployment still 'failed'. 

You can't handle the truth

The truth is much harder than that.  The truth is so much more multi-faceted than that it's almost hard to conceive.  And for many of those that commented on LinkedIn with something like "bad requirements" I am just not sure you can handle the truth (forgive me for quoting a Tom Cruise movie).

BI lives in the juxtaposition of IT and business, some of my peers lovingly call it purgatory.  But, as many of you know, that's not an easy place to reside.  The gap is large and the bridge built between it is often poorly constructed.  You cannot simply request better requirements or more aggressive project management and go home thinking you have it nailed, I assure you that you have not.

BI is a living breathing thing that resides within a larger culture of your business.  The challenging thing about BI is that you have to know how to manage both IT concepts like data modeling, ETL and application development as well as knowing, balancing, predicting and managing the needs of your business.    

If I have convinced you that there is more to the success than requirements and project management, start here.  Then if you are interested in finding a way to improve BI deployment stats go here

Go boldly.

Posted January 4, 2011 10:53 AM
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BI Goes Mainstream

Never before has BI been so mainstream as it was in 2010. I envision a day, very soon, when someone outside the industry asks me what I do and when I answer ”Business Intelligence” they will know what I mean.

This year both USA Today and The Economist put the spotlight on BI. USA Today did a multi-page article on Business Intelligence on November 17, 2010. Both USA Today and The Economist included statistics about exploding data volumes. Byron Acohido of USA Today wrote ”This year the amount of digital information created and replicated is expected to hit an astounding 1.2 zettabytes. That’s one trillion gigabytes. That number will approach 35 zettabytes by 2020.”

In the section titled: ”Business Intelligence can help improve efficiency” Acohido includes the

Forrester estimates: global spending on BI software will ring in at $9.4 billion this year and rise to $14.1 billion by 2014. That does not include a comparable amount likely to be spent on BI consulting services.

The method of delivering data to end-users has changed dramatically in the last few years. Innovations around visualization of data have changed users from an average consumer to a sophisticated analyst, with the ability to find nuggets of value in what were once obscure data points. ”We look at pictures rather than reports,” says Martin Click, recently retired UPS Senior Director for transportation planning. ”By applying the tool and seeing the data visually, we saved $2.5 million.” (November 17, 2010; USA Today).

In a well considered and researched report, The Economist tackles the primary areas of data, data consumption and data challenges put forth by the data deluge. From "new rules for big data" to "A different game: Information is transforming traditional business" the Economist dissects the companies that are doing this work well, and the instances where it all come crashing down (i.e. security breaches and storage issues). Covering everything from data warehouse appliances to metadata, ”Data, data everywhere: A special report on managing information” sums up the work of every BI professional and took it to the masses.

M& A

As I predicted last year (http://blog.lancetsoftware.com/business-intelligence/reflections-on-2009/) , this year was a big one for acquisitions. IBM went on another spending spree picking up Netezza and SPSS. As USA Today wrote in their article in November, ”IBM in particular is betting big on BI. In the past five years, it has spent $14 billion to make 24 BI acquisitions. Its payroll includes 10,000 BI software developers, 8,000 BI consultants and 200 BI mathematicians. ”

EMC acquired Greenplum, the Big one of the year was the acquisition of Sun by Oracle. There are many others not listed here.

All of this activity prompted Gartner to warn of an innovation stale-mate.

Gartner analysts warned that the tech industry is caught in a “vortex of insatiable mergers and acquisitions” that is creating a category of “super vendors” selling highly integrated offerings. Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president of research, offered an audience at Gartner’s annual Symposium a particularly blunt critique of the accelerating trend by tech firms to acquire innovation though mergers and acquisitions. “Acquiring innovation is one thing, maintaining it is completely different,” said Sondergaard. (October 18, 2010; InfoWorld).


Probably the biggest innovation this year was the move to mobile. Lancet participated in the trend when in an all-team meeting in August; Tom Niccum (Lancet’s President) told us that all Lanceteer’s would get iPads. Lancet blogged about our experiences with our iPads in a blog series in October, you can read it here. Our main motivation was to capture some of the enthusiasm around MicroStrategy’s mobile product. Perhaps, this year is the perfect storm for mobility. As Paul Sorensen, Lanceteer and all-around-smart-guy postulates, with the recession still looming, the revolt against TSA’s new screening procedures and the release of 4G 2011 may be the year that organizations fully commit to a mobile workforce. That may mean that the demand for BI in a mobile form will drastically increase as users are no longer limited by the availability of hotspots.

As far as innovators go, MicroStrategy continues to be a leader, according to the BI Survey 9 MicroStrategy out-ranked the others, with SAS and Information Builders in at second and third place respectively.

What’s Next?

Next year’s trends are a bit harder to predict. Last year was pretty obvious considering the state of the BI union. Acquisitions are usually a gimme, they will continue to surprise us. I hope that it doesn’t slow down innovations of one of the fastest moving areas of IT, with $14.1 Billion in spend predicted for 2014 (November 17, 2010; USA Today).

From Strategy to Execution

It is time to put the gauntlet down. 2011 has to be the year of getting it done. One of the primary challenges of BI is the fact that many implementations are not successful on their first attempt. We as a community have to get better at this. I believe things like the increased focus on agile methodologies and books like ”Agile Data Warehousing” by Ralph Hughes will help with this. We also need to continue a high-level of collaboration. If predictions are true then there is enough work to go around, and if there are BI Professionals out there that aren’t doing a good job we all suffer. Let’s collaborate and bring our collective knowledge about what it takes to get this work done to a new level. You can join Lancet in this collaboration imperative, click here to learn how.

Analysis with a capital ”A”

I had a boss once tell me that sometimes you just need things to go through gray matter. I continue to be an advocate for analytics, but there is no easy way out. Certainly good BI and a solid data warehouse with a data visualization tool can help, but at the end of the day, nothing (at least not yet) replaces the gray matter of your analysts. It’s the only way companies will really be able to accelerate their analytic perspective. Give the analysts a sandbox and get the heck out of their way.

Here’s to a thrilling 2011!

Posted December 3, 2010 4:37 PM
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I use my iPad most for meetings with clients and at school for checking email, demoing software and surfing the web... but I’ve also watched Netflix in bed.   I also use Docs ToGo to read, edit and create MS Word & Excel files.    Most of my friends have reacted with jealousy.

- Serena Myers

Posted November 14, 2010 2:36 PM
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I find myself using the iPad at airports and hotels and client sites;  it is way easier than my phone for emails and  I ditched Boingo after signing up for the ATT wireless on the iPad.    The AT&T connection makes demos and internet really easy.   The application speed and display on this thing are impressive.   And as much as I hate to admit it, my Android phone is seeing a lot less use since I got the iPad.

 So far the coolest thing that’s happened since I received my iPad is that  my project manager stopped by my cube while I had my iPad laying there. When she said, ”oh you’ve got one of those things...” I gave her a 2 minute demo of knockout BI features.   My iPad paid for itself in those 2 minutes.

 Common reactions from friends and colleagues are ”I have to get one”;     ”you can’t do that!”  

 My favorite App thus  far is Kindle – it means that I have my technical bookshelf with me at all times, and it doesn’t weigh 35 pounds.

-Harold Richter

Posted November 14, 2010 2:35 PM
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