Wednesday, December 26, 2012

5 Benefits for Healthcare Big Data

Doctors at The Mount Sinai Medical Center and healthcare analytics firm Explorys tell of five major reasons why Big Data is good for healthcare:

  1. Better point-of-care decisions
  2. Reduced re-admissions
  3. Ability to manage population health
  4. Advancements in healthcare research 
  5. Improvements in operational efficiency


Also quoted was Michael Corcoran, chief marketing officer for enterprise BI software vendor Information Builders, the maker of WebFOCUS. Michael observes:

"When individuals can see their performance ranked among many others, it gives them more motivation to achieve better results. They have comparable, daily, real-time results, pushing them to deliver on those same levels.
I've seen a dramatic difference in the time it has taken a nurse to insert an IV into a patient from one floor to another due in part to an awareness of performance metrics. Big data makes performance data even within a hospital more accessible so that efficiency and accuracy can increase."


To read the entire article, click here.

Pretty Pictures of BI: Tableau

There is an emerging genre of BI tools built specifically for business users to perform visual data discovery. The user interfaces are designed to be intuitive and the features simple. These software products are meant to require little if any training. Architecturally, many provide in-memory analysis for high performance.

Of course, these "exploration" tools are also not intended to be full enterprise BI platforms. Instead, they are complementary to more robust products. You will not replace your existing BI products (SAP Business Objects, IBM Cognos, IBI WebFOCUS, MicroStrategy, etc.) with the limited scope of visualization software but you might consider supplementing them.

Competitive Vendors
The main data exploration products on the market today include:

  • QlikView ($204 million revenue in 2011) 
  • Spotfire ($105M 2011) acquired by Tibco in 2007
  • Tableau ($62M 2011) 
  • ADVIZOR Solutions ($10M?) which is also sold as WebFOCUS Visual Discovery


Tibco's Spotfire is the old grand-daddy in this list and was quickly overtaken by the new kids on the block: QlikView from Sweden and Tableau from the Silicon Valley of the United States. 

While QlikTech's revenue reporting for QlikView appears much higher than that of Tableau's, the job statistics imply that Tableau is in much higher demand. 

Tableau to be the Winner?
Tableau arose out of a Stanford University research project from 1997 to 2002, and was spun off as a company in 2003. (Keep in mind that Jim Goodnight started SAS as a small college project which he later grew into a multi-billion dollar mega-software vendor.)

As part of a Department of Defense initiative, PhD candidate Chris Stolte created a "Visual Query Language" to explore large multi-dimensional databases. As luck would have it, Stolte's university mentor was Pat Hanrahan, a founding employee of Pixar. 

Together, they created what has been called “a kind of high powered, highly visual Excel,” which is a really good way of explaining the innovative software product. One of their first interested partners was Essbase, which makes sense. A common user interface for the Essbase cube was Excel, and Tableau was a nice next-generation version of that. 

Tableau is the type of visual analytics software that Microsoft itself should have added to Excel. 

The main Tableau products include: 
  • Tableau Desktop (authoring/publishing tool)
  • Tableau Server (web hosting component)
  • Tableau Reader (web viewing tool)


Tableau Desktop is an Excel spreadsheet hopped up on visualization steroids. Based on selections, Tableau points out to the user the "best practices" for visually displaying data.

Several of about twenty-four "Show Me" options light up for the user. Simply clicking on one, such as a geographic map or a stacked bar chart, does all of the work. There is no coding and no macros, just an easy to use graphical interface.

Within an hour after downloading a Windows desktop copy, I had used one of their accompanying demo files to generate a report, pie chart, bar chart, and geographic map. 

The full version of Tableau Desktop allows access to a variety of databases and publishing capabilities while the "Personal Edition" works only with desktop flat files and spreadsheets. You can easily download copies of Tableau Desktop for one or two thousand US dollars per user license (for Personal and Professional Editions, respectively). 

Why Not Tableau?
I will address Tableau's enterprise web-based and mobile usage in a later blog but for departmental desktop usage, there are few hurdles to using Tableau.

If you have "spreadsheet jockeys" trying to perform data visualization with just Excel, then Tableau is a perfect holiday gift. 

If your organization has a formal software development group anxious to control BI, however, then handing out desktop tools may not be a popular option. Controlling one version of the truth becomes harder when business users create their own BI fiefdoms.

But Business Intelligence is a strange animal and IT organizations often seem unable to control it. Few want to be the BI zookeeper.  If so, responsibility for quality BI moves over to the business.

Organizations that rely upon end-user spreadsheets for reporting and analytics will bring in Tableau Desktop without much consideration.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Goodreads: Mastery by Robert Greene


MasteryMastery by Robert Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


On my bookshelf are four books by Robert Greene covering Power, War, Seduction, and Mastery. Greene has an amazing ability to research and summarize the great people and topics of the world.

In this particular book Greene explores Mastery, providing insight into the lives of amazing people of whom we have all heard: Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, and Leonardo da Vinci. But Greene also includes some modern day geniuses and heroes of lesser renown, such as: John Coltrane, Freddie Roach, Temple Grandin, and Cesar Rodriquez.

Greene both urges you toward Mastery and warns you of the consequences of ignoring the pursuit:
"Mastery is not a question of genetics or luck, but of following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within. Everyone has such inclinations. This desire within you is not motivated by egotism or sheer ambition for power, both of which are emotions that get in the way of mastery. It is instead a deep expression of something natural, something that marked you at birth as unique. In following your inclinations and moving toward mastery, you make a great contribution to society, enriching it with discoveries and insights, and making the most of the diversity in nature among human society. It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures. Alienating yourself from your inclinations can only lead to pain and disappointment in the long run, and a sense that you have wasted something unique. This pain will be expressed in bitterness and envy, and you will not recognize the true source of your depression."


This is another excellent book by Robert Greene.

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Helping companies make better decisions via Business Intelligence. INTP working on the E&J. Traveler, reader, family guy, coffee drinker.