When it comes to business analytics, some companies get it -- and long have. Health insurer Humana is one of them; one of its goals, in fact, "is to be the best analytically driven company that we can be."
Much of the responsibility for making that happen falls on the shoulders of Elizabeth Barth-Thacker, technology manager with the company's Business Intelligence & Informatics Competency Center (BIICC). I recently sat down with Barth-Thacker to discuss analytics at Humana in general and, in particular, her role at the BIICC -- an organization she laughingly calls "the Switzerland for analytics."
In elaborating on what analytics means to Humana, she explained: "The goal isn't just about being a great insurance company when it comes to analytics but about being a great company in general, making sure we're making great fact-based decisions consistently."
Toward that end, Barth-Thacker leads a unit within the BIICC called Business Informatics Guidance. It has three primary areas of focus, she said.
Analytic asset management
The first is analytic asset management, with the BIICC bringing together all the different pieces of and people responsible for analytics at Humana under a subcommittee that Barth-Thacker facilitates. "We treat analytics as a strategic asset but give everyone a voice and a vote in how we develop those assets, how we invest in them, and how we escalate issues," she said.
As an example, she pointed to Humana's recent investment in and deployment of SAS Grid Computing, a centrally managed computing environment for workload balancing, high availability, and fast processing.
This wasn't just one person, or IT, deciding we needed it. It was all different core stewards, people from individual areas saying, 'Here's our problem and here's how we like to solve the problem,' along with IT. So it became a dialog with all the business units, IT, and ourselves about how to put this solution in place.
As a result, she added, the core stewards orchestrated the grid queuing and prioritization (with some advice from SAS, this site's sponsor).
They decided what queues we'd have, and then business rules for how things got deployed... So they own it. It's not us telling someone, 'this is the right thing to do' or 'this is what you're going to do.' It's a collaboration, and that's what we're trying to do: Drive collaboration and accountability.
The second focus area is providing what the BIICC calls "just-in-time guidance," essentially operating as a helpdesk for analytics. Toward this end, Barth-Thacker's team comprises technical experts, who know SAS coding best-practices and can provide mentoring on "everything from helping your job run faster to figuring out what you've done wrong and to helping you get started," and people who understand Humana's data.
"Everyone has their areas of expertise but they all have foundational knowledge too and can handle cross-functional problems," she said.
The last focus area for Barth-Thacker's BIICC team is analytics learning. The BIICC hosts different events, like monthly SAS cafes, has a SAS user group of about 600, and offers about 60 classes aimed at teaching users about analytic tools, their capabilities, and how to use Humana's data along with them, she said. Last year, the analytics learning touched more than 2,700 Humana employees, with classes like Introduction to SAS Enterprise Guide and Custom SAS 1,2,3 Coding, she added.
All of this is possible because "we have amazing support at Humana," said Barth-Thacker, who explains more in this video:
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