The private healthcare company Bupa is the middle of a much needed business intelligence (BI) transformation, centralising data into a single data warehouse and simplifying reporting to deliver insights at far greater speed.
It's a tried and tested formula for Julian Pimm-Smith, director of data and information services at Bupa, and his team from their days at Pret a Manger: layering SAP's Business Objects enterprise on top of an SQL server data warehouse, with the Business Objects Universes semantic layer in between.
Speaking to Computerworld UK during the UK and Ireland SAP User group conference in Birmingham last week, Josh Morrin, senior reporting developer at Bupa, talked us through the project after he followed Pimm-Smith from Pret in July last year.
Seconds rather than hours
The first step was to centralise data and reporting for the organisation, instead of the old model where "analytics happened disjointedly around the business, using a lot of different tools," Morrin said.
"They didn't really have a data warehouse, they referred to it as a data warehouse," he said of the old model. "Essentially it was data marts that were just replications of the source tables, mildly manipulated. None of it was dimensionally modelled, so now we are building it for reporting purposes from scratch and layering the Business Objects Universes on top."
Where analysts previously were making their calculations "in the report level with lots of clever coding", now with Business Objects reporting can be more consistent and, crucially, much faster.
"There are still reports that people run for 36 hours," Morrin said. "There was a table we imported into Business Objects that was 440 million rows and counting. If you're trying to reindex or filter or aggregate that down at report level you have no chance, so the fact our data warehouse can swallow that is new to these people."
Now it is a case of Morrin and his team bringing these analysts into this new world. He said: "It has changed what we do because we are essentially spending a lot of time selling our new capabilities to little MI (management information) teams, because we are building a big platform of Business Objects for the 500 or so analysts at Bupa to try and get them all using Business Objects instead of whatever else they are doing."
The advantage of this new centralised capability is primarily speed, as the old model involved filling out four-page paper forms to request certain data items and reports.
"The old way the team works is they send you a four page form where you would ask for your data items, what systems are being affected, all of this stuff that's like - why would they know that?" Morrin asks. "So we ditched all of that and it has kind of opened the floodgates."
This means shifting to a more service-oriented outlook from Morrin's team, as well as providing some self-serve capabilities for analysts.
"Now people are generally able to just have a chat, by email or Skype, about what they want and we can work backwards from there," he said. "So I would say service delivery has been our best thing because it is much quicker."
The self-serve capabilities for analysts involves a set of "input controls to change which group or claims base or product they want to look at" and quickly run a report.
Now, instead of running Cognos on top of some loosely defined replication tables, running Business Objects on top of a central data warehouse allows Morrin and his team to run reports in seconds not hours.
"We would expect to have that information out on the same business day, rather than before where you would be talking about two weeks, as there was a whole other team to test the reports," he added.
Read the full article on ComputerWorldUK.