The (Game-Changing) Art of Data Management
“Data is like garbage. You’d better know what you are going to do with it before you collect it.”
Not having access to the right data and not knowing what to do with it can put you on a collision course with what is an organizational mission-centric need. But knowing how to read, analyze, and act on your company’s data can turn Twain’s potential garbage into a treasure trove.
For the lab industry in particular, there was a time when even getting access to data was a challenge, often an overwhelming one. And there was a time when an IT technician or department was an afterthought.
Boy, have things changed!
Now access to data is an embarrassment of riches; what’s more, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that health-industry IT roles were expected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, outpacing the average for all occupations. Along with this explosion of information and talent, there are now many solutions that any company – including yours – can tap into for a game-changing transformation.
And the good news is we have them.
The Data You Need
Today’s sheer access to information is something we’re grateful for. But what I’m seeing in labs is that it’s only helpful when you know what data has the biggest operational impact. This requires knowing what your Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are. Determining your KPI is imperative, and even within this industry it will likely vary from lab to lab; and even if one lab has the same KPIs as another, the priorities might be different. But it’ll be your blueprint for strategic and operational improvements and stronger profits as it helps you make informed, mission-critical decisions.
But note that there is so much data, that KPIs differ at the various levels of an organization. There are those at the “bench level” (and a look at those front-line ones are worthy of its own blog) but we’re going to be looking at those at the C-Suite level, as that is usually where the financial decisions that can make or break an organization are made.
Some C-Suite KPIs for our industry include:
- Turnaround time – how long it takes to get patient samples and results out and back to the client
- What tests are trending
- Which tests offer the best ROI for the organization’s bottom line
- The cost comparison between outsourcing to other labs vs. investing internally (staff and equipment)
- Volume month to month – identifying sudden lulls or spikes and which clients you need to follow up with.
Volume is just one KPI that I see as especially important in the work we’re doing with labs. Looking at who is spending what and how much on what tests can be tremendously helpful to the bottom line. When we partner with a lab and deep dive into this, I have seen real profit-inducing results. There are situations when we see how a lab might have a few clients with such a low volume on inexpensive tests that a re-evaluation of the relationship is needed. Does this client know of your other services? Can there be some “upselling” to some high-end tests? If not, maybe it’s best to let this client go entirely.
The Data Mining Process
So, one of the first things we do with a client is get clear on the KPIs and the priorities. Then our team looks at how the lab is getting the data, and then how that data is getting delivered.
On that last point, here’s the good news: there are a lot of resources out there that can extract exactly what you’re looking for, simply and efficiently. There is Amazon Quicksight, a cloud-based serverless service that we find is good at allowing access to the specific data everyone in your organization needs. Another one we recommend is Snowflake, also cloud-based, that some find more user-friendly. Microsoft has Power BI, which is data visualization software, containing a collection of services, apps, and connectors with interactive insights that many like. There are others in this growing segment, but what is key is you want something that can automatically look for the patterns and outliers that align with your KPI. Otherwise, it depends on what performance indicator you want to prioritize (no worries, this is something else we help with).
One of the most important services we offer is extracting KPI-aligned data and loading it into the appropriate data bases so the right people within the organization can get to it easily.
The Advantage of Outside Help
As the labor market tightens at every level, especially in the IT sector, having an outside team come in to set up and manage it all is advantageous. For us, this is what we do, and we have several tools and business solutions that fit any number of situations. It’s no secret I’m bullish on our expansive team and deep-bench of professionals, but what is most important is that the work is done so that actional KPI data is available to anyone who may need it. Imagine having daily access to KPIs, allowing you to make informed decisions on a range of issues, including but not limited to:
- Staffing – is it enough or too much?
- Sales – is the team solid or are there some deficiencies?
- Revenue Flow – is it strong and does it make sense?
- New Revenue – does the new business volume relate to the sales forecast amount?
- Business Model – is it durable?
Believe me, I know that some of this is overwhelming and certainly not “sexy.” But once you commit to the art of data management and work with either your team or ours, that ROI can mean the difference between an organization that is struggling and one that is wildly successful.