Analytics in Healthcare

August 31st, 2013
Contributing Editor: Peter Kelly

“Sick and tired” and “More of the same” come to mind when I think about the never-ending promises of healthcare reform. However, a radically new idea has emerged – that data holds THE answer; the answer to:

Restoring Trust. Empowering the subject of healthcare – the client, and ensuring adherence to the professional ethic, that thou shalt do no harm
Management. Reducing costs, improving accountability – by getting it right, from prevention to rehabilitation
Engagement. Personalising healthcare, thereby elevating the relevance of relationships in health “care” and putting technology where it belongs – in the background.

This newsletter assembled by the Alberta Council of Technologies, portrays analytics and the dara scientist as transformative, as aides – not alternatives, to the healthcare provider and as kickstarting the development of “evidence-based” apps for improved decision making in healthcare – quick and easy, safe and secure.
– Perry Kinkaide MSc, PhD, CMC
Chair: Analytics, Big Data, and The Cloud Conferences – 2012 and 2013

Analytics in managing healthcare

The New World of Healthcare Analytics. We live in a data-driven world, where streams of numbers, text, images and voice data are collected through numerous sources – accessible and moved at the speed of light. Analytics can transform this data into meaningful alerts, decision support and process improvements, for dramatically improving the success of a healthcare organization. When analytics are applied effectively, healthcare organizations can better coordinate decisions, extract and present key clinical information and respond to an evolving situation in real time. They can better use their resources, save more lives, contain costs, improve their services and performance levels and even reduce their environmental impact.

Healthcare Analytics Market to Reach 108-Billiion by 2017. Healthcare payers as well as the providers are leading the users of healthcare analytics for a range of functions from suggesting the most accurate diagnoses, cost reduction, fraud prevention, revenue generation, service improvement to real-time view of the business. The major driver for business analytics is the return on Investments (ROI), with a median of five years, from 10.0% to 1,000.0%.

Analytics-Driven Healthcare: Improving Care, Compliance and Cost. In the face of skyrocketing costs, the healthcare industry is addressing inefficiencies by improving data sharing and collaboration across the industry value chain and applying analytics to improve operations and patient outcomes.

Analytics as an investment priority

Advanced analytics is the top investment priority – half of IDC’s surveyed healthcare providers and payers say analytics is their top investment priority..

Analytics as a physician’s aide

The 10 things IBM is Teaching the World – IBM’s Watson has been designed to assist physician’s in diagnosing and treating patients by querying the system. The doctor enters in symptoms and other related factors, Watson then mines the patient data to find relevant facts about family history, current medications and other existing conditions. It combines this information with current findings from tests and instruments and then examines all available data sources to form hypotheses and test them. Watson can incorporate treatment guidelines, electronic medical record data, doctor’s and nurse’s notes, research, clinical studies, journal articles, and patient information into the data available for analysis.

Analytics in preventative care

Number, Numbers, and More Numbers. Insurers have been crunching numbers for years to figure out which patients are most likely to generate high costs. Now other groups are gauging probabilities of relapses, and the likelihood of a patient’s not taking his or her medicine. Using models that draw on massive troves of medical and other data, some are also focusing on seemingly healthy individuals, trying to prevent problems before they occur.

Analytics in personalizing healthcare

How Data Science Is Transforming Healthcare. An exploratiom of how data analysis will help structure the business of healthcare more effectively around outcomes, and how it will transform the practice of medicine by personalizing for each specific patient.”Data Science is not optional in healthcare reform; it is the linchpin of the whole process.”

Scandu Scout – the World’s First Tricorder. In order for people to take a more active role in their health, they need to not only have the data, but know what the data means and how to act on it – a consumer, rather than clinical, pathway to medicine. The Scanadu Scout™ incorporates algorithms, for analyzing measurements’ data and interpreting them. ALSO The Scandu Broke Indigogo’s Crowdfunding Record. $100,000 was raised in less than two hours and doubled it in five. The next phase of Scanadu Scout’s production is to develop the educational component of the device.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Top 10 Game Changers in Hospital IT Healthcare Healthcare is always changing. Information technology is always changing. Put them together in today’s acute care setting, and you have a prescription for change on an extraordinary level. Listed below are the top 10 healthcare IT game changers that affect all stakeholders — patients, clinicians and hospital IT departments. They represent both opportunity and challenges, depending on your point of view. Dealing with these concepts — indeed embracing these concepts — is not just a good idea, it is an absolute necessity.

TBR’s SourceIT Healthcare Report – provides business insight into the IT investments healthcare organizations are planning for meeting government requirements and improving operational efficiency. Healthcare IT in North America is at a crossroads as mandates, business pressure, new technologies, big data and consumerization buffets payers and provider alike. The Report helps IT vendors understand how these forces are shaping $34.5 billion in IT spend, where those dollars are going and who authorizes the budgets.”

ANALYTICS AS TRANSFORMATION

“Disruption” – Silicon Valley’s Worst Buzzword. Sometimes buzzwords become so pervasive they’re almost inaudible, which is when we need to start listening to them. “Disruptive” is like that. It floats in the ether at ideas festivals and TED talks; it vanishes into the jargon cluttering the pages of Forbes and Harvard Business Review. There’s a quarterly called Disruptive Science and Technology; a Disruptive Health Technology Institute opened this summer. Disruptive doesn’t mean what it used to, of course. It’s no longer the adjective you hope not to hear in parent-teacher conferences. It’s what you want investors to say about your new social-media app. If it’s disruptive, it’s also innovative and transformational.1 We can’t often name the person who released a cliché into the linguistic ecosystem, but in this case we can, and we also know why he did it. He’s Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, and he wanted to explain why upstart enterprises drive better-established companies out of business. In his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christensen launched the phrase that has transmogrified the English language: “disruptive innovation.”

John Sculley on the Consumer Revolution in Healthcare. When Steve Jobs recruited John Sculley to join Apple 30 years ago, he became the first big brand consumer marketer to head a Silicon Valley company. Jobs knew that the PC would eventually become a consumer product and would need the same marketing prowess as other household brands. Thirty years later, and healthcare has missed both the PC revolution and the Internet revolution. But John Sculley won’t let healthcare miss the new era of consumer-centric wellness and health. He believes that disruptive innovation in this space will be about connecting the dots between high tech, healthcare, and consumer branding.

FEATURED DATA SCIENTIST

Vincent Granville’s blog – How to eliminate a trillion dollars in healthcare costs. Over a five year period, based on better analytics, and where everybody wins – except current suppliers.

EVENTS

“The Leading Edge of Healthcare & Robotics” is the Calgary Council for Advanced Technology (CCAT) first networking event of Fall 2013 by Nathan Armstrong – Design Engineer & Leader of Multiple Industry Groups. Examining the latest innovations in robotics and how they might affect personal healthcare in the near future. Will the future of healthcare look similar to today, or will robots drastically change the face of the medical industry? Exploring the trends and upcoming technologies – an in-depth look at what the future might hold. Learn more about healthcare tech trends and network with local business and tech professionals.Wednesday September 11, 2013. Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) – 3608 – 33 St NW, Calgary Register: www.ccat.org or contact info@ccat.org or phone 403-282-4759

CAREERS

Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA®) Individuals who earn the CHDA designation will achieve recognition of their expertise in health data analysis and validation of their mastery of this domain. This prestigious certification provides practitioners with the knowledge to acquire, manage, analyze, interpret, and transform data into accurate, consistent, and timely information, while balancing the “big picture” strategic vision with day-to-day details. CHDA-credentialed professionals exhibit broad organizational knowledge and the ability to communicate with individuals and groups at multiple levels, both internal and external.

Teenage Cancer Innovators. Some teenagers spend their free time playing video games. Others dedicate their after-school hours to a job, scooping ice cream or taking movie tickets. Still others play a sport, or are star members of a debate team. And still others spend their free time in a lab, working on ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

NOTE:

Troy Media has assembled Alberta’s Analytics Industry magazine for ABCtech with a dozen original articles citing the broad impact of analytics including a directory of over 100 Made-in-Alberta analytics companies. Please contact info@ABCtech.ca for sponsor opportunities.

Visit BestofAnalytics.com for an exclusive viewing of several analytics and healthcare related presentations videos at ABCtech’s Analytics, Big Data, and The Cloud Conferences held in Edmonton in 2012 and conducted simultaneously in both Edmonton and Calgary this past May 2013. http://bestofanalytics.com/video/

The Renaissance Revisited

By: Perry Kinkaide, Founder & Past President – Alberta Council of Technologies

Analytics just keeps getting better. Two years ago our theme “Off-loading Intelligence – When Machines Decide!” was punctuated with repeated declarations of: “It’s sooner than you think!” And then in 2012, encouraged by IBM’s Watson winning Jeopardy, and popularized by Hollywood’s film ‘Moneyball,’ we tweaked the theme and organized our Conference to reflect the popularity of “Analytics, Big Data, and The Cloud”. The associated Conference for 2013 reconvenes in BOTH Calgary and Edmonton May 13-15th – visit BESTofANALYTICS.com (ABCtech subscribers receive a 10% discount when Registering On-line using the Subscriber discount CODE ABCtech4U ) Featured panels portray a wide-array of Alberta applications and commercialization issues across industry, research and government. Key features are broadcast via WebTV between sites and globally. The ICT data-storage/processing industry continues to morph into a service. And, apps that are programmed to actually learn are imminent. It’s just a matter of time, and indeed – ‘sooner than you think’.

The market for analytics continues to attract broad interest as an aide to decision making from varied industries and professions; just see the the range of perspectives shared in this newsletter. This Renaissance Revisited features the governments of the US and Canada declaring policies of Open Data and managers being challenged to surface and secure answers from reservoirs of formerly ignored data. To secure a strong advantage and keep up with NOW, the leaders of today MUST:

  • Anticipate. Employ predictive analytics for securing improved customer service, program/product evaluation and design, and as a means to increase market share
  • Get Nimble. Remove cultural barriers, archaic policies and hierarchical structures impeding responsiveness
  • Learn. Seek out anomalies, the source of innovation
  • Collaborate. Improve ease of access to data and integrate siloed data sources
  • Decide. Increase productivity employing data as an aide to decision making
  • Automate. Investigate algorithms for possibly automating labour intensive/error prone management processes
  • Compete. Treat data as an asset and employ analytics for a competitive edge
  • Discover. Employ huge data sets and analytics tools to better understand intricate topics such as: the universe and our origins, the earth’s climate and weather, the brain and behavior, and what’s relevant to you.

No implication is any more significant than the opportunity to feed the voracious appetite of people to be informed anytime, anywhere. For democracy, borders become irrelevant. For markets, data is a huge competitive asset for customizing service. For the professions, analytics may signal “the beginning of the end” of the professionally dominated, knowledge economy. The professional-client relationship features: waiting lists, high public and private costs and rising, and weak client engagement. Today’s clients are impatient with increasingly consumer-like expectations, to the chagrin of busy professionals. The “personalization” of professional markets has enormous implications for customizing service, speeding up responses and redefining the role of knowledge-intensive, expensive professionals – such as coaches, where relationship skills are in demand. By the way, and this may be peculiar to Alberta, “busy” has become a new by-word – an impersonal response to anyone asking “How are you!”

Where knowledge-based decisions are error-prone, and yield to data, sensors monitor remote assets with system controls. Witness the promise of remote personal health monitors, unmanned vehicle transportation, customized entertainment, speed matchmaking, reprogrammable robotics in manufacturing. A new beginning. The time is now!

Analytics: The Internet’s GPS

Converting raw data into insights

EDMONTON, AB, Mar. 1, 2012/ Troy Media/ - Not all data is worth the same.

The average person is bombarded with data during almost every waking moment: TV shows and ads, text messages, radio broadcasts, various print media, and a whirlwind of instant messages, pop-up ads, videos, and sound-bytes on the internet. Some may be accurate, most not, some may be applicable to our purposes, most not: most of us do not have the time, training or inclination to sift through the drek to discover the nuggets that will help us achieve our results. The internet provides us with access to vast amounts of text and other types of raw data, data that can used in business practices, communications, governmental processes, personal interactions, and so on.

The road to nowhere

No one can accurately process or make use of all of that information. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, the world’s largest index of the Internet, estimated the size of the internet to be over five million terabytes. That is over five trillion megabytes. Welcome the “inundation age.”

In other words, the “information superhighway” is often a road to nowhere or to chaos and indecision. And that’s where analytics – data-driven applications as aides for automating decision making – comes in.

Highly-advanced computer algorithms process both structured data (which allows you to select specific pieces of information based on columns and rows in a field organized and searchable by data type within the actual content), and unstructured data (data that is not part of a database) to identify and analyze patterns that lead to targeted insights for supporting decisions. These algorithms allow us to take a “big picture” perspective of the data, which we in turn can organize and process in a way that the human mind could not hope to comprehend by itself.

Aristotle theorized that government was the greatest human endeavour because it influences and controls . . . well, everything. That same logic can be applied to the implications of analytics, which has emerged as a universally applicable method for aiding and making all manner of decisions.

Analytics can assist the decision-making process in virtually any field, discipline, or industry, making it one of the most commonly used and relied upon methods to inform wide-ranging leadership. Because of this, it is not unrealistic to imagine that analytics may become the primary method for all major world organizations to craft their policies and plans of action.

Perry Kinkaide

Dr. Perry Kinkaide, Chair of the first Canadian “Analytics, Big, Data, and The Cloud” Conference, to be held April 23 to 25 in Edmonton, said “The implications for knowledge-based professions, government and consumer-driven companies, will be extraordinary. Never has the following mantras been more relevant: ‘He who knows his customer best has no competition.”

“Knowledge without relationships has no value.”  Kinkaide added. “The power of analytics enables corporations, government and the professions to align their services with the expectations of the consumer.”  This is truly evolutionary.”

Analytics is being applied to a vast number of areas of knowledge: business, ecology, healthcare, sports, government policy, city planning, technological development, medical research, and practically every scholarly discipline imaginable. Analytic systems are already being used all over the world to increase the efficiency and success of some of the most important endeavours on the planet: air traffic control, disease control, water and utility operations, evacuation planning, food and utility distribution, auto traffic planning, medical diagnoses, banking, mortgage processing, and more.

In theory, technology is only as good as the people who create and program it. Fortunately, the analytics field has attracted some of the most brilliant technological minds in the world to ensure accuracy. Reliable studies have shown that companies that use advanced analytics as an integral part of their decision-making greatly increase their productivity and their profits. Other research has yielded similar results, indicating that the accuracy of analytics application is considerable.

Of course, nothing is infallible, especially when it comes to predicting the future. Predictive analytics, however, have shown a high degree of accuracy. Generally speaking, analytics have proven to be highly accurate, including important, practical applications that depend upon high degrees of precision such as air traffic controlling, utilities, medical applications, etc. All of these applications have resulted in spectacular success.

But the variety of applications of analytics technology is only one aspect of analytics overall versatility. It is also versatile in terms of its use when considering Cloud analytics. By utilizing cloud-based analytics systems, users have more options, and more protections, than ever before.

Users can have full access to all services from any computer, anywhere on the planet. They are also free from many of the problems that plague users of conventional computer systems: limited memory, limited storage, loss, theft, accidental damage, viruses, and various other complications and catastrophes.

As the ICT industry adopts cloud-based, wireless systems, the world’s global economy will transition into a sleeker, faster, more mobile, and more flexible work environment for all industries. Massive amounts of information will be analyzed through cloud systems, enabling us to tackle more complex, wide-ranging problems and questions than ever before. The unlimited versatility of such a system indicates a quantum leap beyond merely plugging in and surfing the net. Technology of this level is a prelude to a world in which advanced research and thinking are possible on levels that have never been imagined.

Analytics provides practical insight

While the “information age” gave people greater access to raw data than ever before in history (whether accurate or inaccurate), the “analytics age” goes beyond the mere presentation of jumbled data and provides something that is far more valuable: insight and practical application. Everyone, from policy makers and business owners to private citizens may soon be able to log onto any computer anywhere and run sophisticated, customized analytics programs to gain new perspectives on a number of issues pertinent to his or her life and work.

Analytics does something amazing. It converts titanic amounts of raw data into accurate, useful, applicable insights, the next evolution of the information age.

This article is FREE to use on your websites or in your publications. However, Troy Media, with a link to its web site, MUST be credited.

 

Analytics Paving the Way to Better Health Care

Detecting problems before they occur

EDMONTON, ON, Apr. 22, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Analytics is changing the face of the health care industry, whether determining the risk of premature infants to contract life-threatening illnesses, decreasing the fall risk of patients, or ensuring that emergency responders are within a reasonable distance from your home.

Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, for example, is testing a new analytics system that can predict more accurately than ever before which premature babies are at most risk for disease and infection.

And the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) is using IBM’s InfoSphere Streams software to correlate thousands of real-time data sources and analyze the information being collected from the over 400 premature infants that were monitored at the hospital. The system looks more closely at data, such as heart rate, temperature, blood saturation, and blood pressure levels, which is then streamed to the system 24/7 to provide a look at the babies’ health in a way never seen before. So far, the InfoSphere streams have captured two decades worth of data in just 400 patients though constant monitoring.

UOIT analyzes the data in many ways, including, they hope, to discover the onset of sepsis and various other conditions before these problems occur, says Dr. Carolyn McGregor, the Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics at UOIT. It hopes to be able to detect if the baby is about to develop any life-threatening infections 24 hours before visual onset. While medical personnel have traditionally used indicators such as body temperature to monitor for the onset of infection, analytics is providing “a much richer environment,” McGregor says, to analyze a wider variety of conditions that babies can develop.

Premature infants are not the only patients, however, reaping the benefits of analytics. In a case study performed by IBM, Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society (ELGSS), in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, used advanced case management to analyze data patterns that improved business processes and enhanced patient care.

Rustan Williams, the VP of information systems and technology systems and CIO for ELGSS, says one specific area it uses analytics for is to determine if a patient may be a fall risk. If the patient is determined to be at risk, special measures can be taken to ensure the patient’s safety.

The use of analytics in the medical community extends beyond the hospital. Ambulance services in many areas are now starting to use analytics to help increase efficiency. Companies such as Canada-based Darkhorse Analytics are using its analytics to offer assistance to these companies in a wide array of areas.

“Healthcare in Canada,” Daniel Haight, a founding partner for Darkhorse Analytics says, “has started taking over ambulances, so all services have a computer-aided dispatch system, unless they are really small. It is through their own database that they collect every call that comes in. The data is broken down into very detailed intervals of performance. We collect all the data and mine it for insight.”

Darkhorse identifies where problems are occurring and then helps come up with a plan of action. Haight explains that each problem area has different issues. Some municipalities have plenty of emergency vehicles but not enough stations, while others have plenty of stations but not enough vehicles. Through data analysis, Darkhorse is able to make suggestions on where stations should be located, how many vehicles should be housed at each, and the hours the stations should be more heavily staffed.

Efficient data collection partnered with intelligent analytics is a recipe for higher quality health care overall and is the road to the future, he adds.

Learn more about how analytics is transforming the health care industry at Canada’s largest analytics conference. Dan Haight will be speaking at Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud will be held April 23rd-25th in Edmonton, Alberta.

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This article is FREE to use on your websites or in your publications. However, Troy Media, with a link to its web site, MUST be credited.

 

Analytics is Changing Sports

Analysing statistics to create a winning team

EDMONTON, AB, Apr. 23, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Moneyball isn’t just for pro baseball players and Brad Pitt anymore.

Executives in virtually every professional sports league, from the NHL to the NFL, are finding ways to incorporate analytics – the actual term used to describe the techniques popularized in the recent hit movie – into their particular game.

The recent film, based on the best-selling 2003 non-fiction book by Michael Lewis, has helped demonstrate just how important the role of statistical analysis can be in sports. The smart use of data analysis helped the Oakland A’s, a subpar and struggling baseball team, win a record 20 consecutive games and their division championship while competing with teams that have as much as three times their payroll.

Skeptics became true believers

The A’s success using analytics converted skeptics everywhere into new believers.

The Boston Red Sox went on to win two World Series after adopting the same data analysis methods. And baseball isn’t the only sport where the edge gained by the use of analytics is spreading.

Marc Appleby with Powerscout, a hockey analytics company, is part of the movement on the ice. There are lots of performance statistics that are available in hockey, but determining what those statistics mean is the hard part, he said.

Knowing how many goals a team averages is good, but, Appleby explains, “There are other aspects besides goals and assists that are important. PowerScout has researched key statistics from over 14,000 NHL games over a 13 year period where we’ve discovered winning trends that can be modeled today to help build a winning team. Ultimately, our mission is to help teams maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, which is of growing interest to hockey teams at every level.”

“When building a team we know what components provide you the best probability of winning based on key findings uncovered in our extensive research. That is what we do at PowerScout,” he said. “Often teams are looking at small situations but not the whole picture. Many times they are looking at player performance on a game by game basis but Powerscout tracks how each player is contributing to help his team win based on his position and his skills.”

Companies like Powerscout are giving coaches and front-office executives a better look at the complete picture when they are assembling their teams during the off-season. Instead of just focusing on one specific player, analytics helps determine which types of players work best together.

Engineers with Formula 1 racing teams are even finding ways to apply analytics to gain an advantage over the competition during an event.

Formula 1 racing team Lotus F1 collects data as a race progresses. The information about the car, the weather, and the competitors is sent in real time to teammates on and off the track, reports Kevin Casey of InformationWeek. A mobile app is used for the driver and information that can give a competitive edge is streamed real-time.

This gives an exclusive edge and could possibly be used in a number of other sports. For instance, a football coach using analytics software streaming to a handheld device during game play could help him determine what plays have the highest statistical edge.

Football teams are presently using analytics in the same way hockey teams are. Robert Bedetti, a blogger for the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, recently employed analytics to help determine which draft picks are the riskiest.

“When evaluating first-round draft picks, history can tell us a lot about how different positions are valued and how they tend to live up to (or fall short of) expectations,” he said. “The data from past drafts can be invaluable to the evaluation and selection process that no team has yet to master.”

Through Bedetti’s analysis, he found that the quarterback position is one of the riskiest early-round picks. If you pick a quarterback in the first or second round you were more likely to end up disappointed, whereas, a linebacker in the first or second round is shown to be a relatively safe pick.

Analytics is also used by the sports fan. Fantasy football players are relying on data gleaned from statisticians to get the upper edge.

In Papa Chakravarthy’s research, “Optimizing Draft Strategies in Fantasy Football,” data was collected from ESPN and Pro Football Reference’s websites to determine the best auction draft strategy that relies on accurate risk estimation in a fantasy football league.

Analytics determines risk level

The study considers several draft styles including points-based drafting, value-based drafting, risk-averse drafting, and risk-neutral drafting. It attempts to determine the risk level that provides risk-neutral drafting, as well as the ways risk neutrality can increase a team owner’s utility, where utility is directly related to the fantasy point output of a team.

Regardless of if you are a team manager looking to draft the best possible team combination, a sports enthusiast building a fantasy football team, or a team looking to use real-time analytics, we can expect to see a lot more from the sports analytics field in the coming years.

Or, as Pitt’s character in “Moneyball” puts it, “We’ll change the game. That’s what I want. I want it to mean something.”

Learn more about how analytics is transforming the health care industry at Canada’s largest analytics conference. Dan Haight will be speaking at Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud will be held April 23rd-25th in Edmonton, Alberta.

This article is FREE to use on your websites or in your publications. However, Troy Media, with a link to its web site, MUST be credited.

Analytics could help tackle Canada’s labour shortage

Help your current workforce reach its true potential

EDMONTON, AB, Apr. 3, 2012, Troy Media/ – It’s no surprise to anyone that Canada is suffering from a shortage in skilled labour. But it may surprise you to learn that analytic software and programs could be a key component to overcoming it.

James Freeman, Chief Marketing Officer for Calgary-based Zedi Inc., a premier provider of analytics and data services, applications and technology for the oil and gas industry, sums up how analytics could play an integral role in the future of labour shortages in Alberta and Canada as a whole in two words: Increased efficiency.

Realizing potential

“Since 2008, the production operations side of the upstream oil and gas industry has lost a lot of experienced people. Through Analytics, we can help producers realize potential and become more efficient with the less-skilled labour they have, particularly where gas prices are very tight” he said.

Essentially, analytics programs analyze data captured from the producing assets in the field, and trigger alarms or flag trends of interest that may deviate from normal operating conditions. Based on these flags, companies can then focus productive effort to minimize downtime and cost, and maximize labour efficiency.

Unfortunately, human resources (HR) and production management in Canadian companies are lagging behind when it comes to implementing core analytics programs into employee performance. In fact, in 2006, an Accenture High-Performance Workforce Study reported that nearly 40 per cent of companies surveyed have no formal measures for determining HR impact on workforce performance, while another 39 per cent have such measures but only for some HR initiatives.

But the study found that 78 per cent of companies that are leaders on human performance criteria are able to demonstrate, with quantitative measures, the impact of the performance of the top three workforces on the organization’s overall financial performance. Similarly, 35 per cent of the leading businesses have formal, business-focused metrics – analytics – to gauge the impact of all of their HR activities on workforce performance.

According to these studies, successful companies are more likely to use analytics to link HR-related initiatives to business performance. The ability to develop business management plans from this data, to ensure that the workforce is working at its fullest potential, can help make up a portion of the labour shortages. Just as the development of manufacturing machinery reduced the labor force needed to make certain products, analytics application can reduce the required labor force by improving efficiency in almost any industry.

Coordination needed to solve labour shortages

Bringing new workers to the skilled labour force is important, of course, but focusing on using the current workforce to its fullest potential may be a better way to dramatically ease the burden of the labour shortages that are plaguing Canadian industries. If all of the reasonable methods of dealing with this problem are coordinated together – greater efficiency through analytics, expansions of skilled labour programs, and occasional temporary international hiring – Canada may overcome this impending economic obstacle, and forge on into an ever-more-prosperous future.

Learn more about the crucial role that analytics is playing in Alberta’s infrastructure and ever-evolving industries. James Freeman and other leading professionals will share their insights about the future of analytics this spring at Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud – Canada’s largest analytics conference being held April 23 to 25 at Edmonton’s Fantasyland Conference Centre. http://www.bestofanalytics.com/

What is the extent of the problem?

A C-Suite survey of Canadian corporate executives reported that, despite the high level of unemployment in Canada, companies just can’t get all the people they need to fill the skilled positions that are available. Two-thirds of executives said they are having difficulty finding qualified employees, and one-third said the labour shortage is so severe that it is stunting their companies’ growth.

Unfortunately, the problem is not one that is going to see an end any time soon. According to the Calgary Economic Development study, the demand for skilled labour in Alberta is expected to increase by more than 600,000 workers by 2021. If nothing is done to increase the number of skilled workers, who are ready and willing to occupy these job openings, there will be about 114,000 unfilled vacancies.

If steps are not taken to prepare for this severe shortage of trained workers, Canada could face a number of long-term economic problems that will affect thousands across the nation.

So what can be done about this impending economic threat? The Canadian government have explored a number of options. Many initiatives have focused on obtaining more foreign workers from the United States, Ireland, and U.K. to fill these vacancies.

Alberta Progressive Conservative Premier Alison Redford was in Chicago early this year to discuss the labour shortage and look into possibilities of bringing skilled workers to Alberta from the U.S.

“We’ve had discussions with a number of labour organizations in Chicago who’ve been doing work with decision-makers in the United States – and with the Canadian and U.S. ambassadors – to try to find avenues where we might be able to accelerate access of skilled labour into Alberta,” she said.

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program was implemented to attempt to deal with the labour shortage head-on, allowing Canadian companies to hire foreign workers temporarily to fill these vacancies.

Though bringing in foreign workers on a temporary basis may remedy immediate labour needs, it does not address the labour shortage in the long term. Mike Rowe, an advocate for American investment in trades, believes the biggest problem stems from the lack of young people interested in skilled labour jobs, and the stigma associated with these trades:

“Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as ‘vocational consolation prizes,’ best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree,” he said. “And still, we talk about millions of ‘shovel-ready’ jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.”

By focusing efforts on training programs in skilled trade through vocational education and apprenticeships, Canada could find more youth going down a skilled trade career path. If skilled trades could be legitimized and popularized in the minds of Canada’s young people, the influx of students pursuing skilled apprenticeships could help ease some of the stress on industries that rely heavily on these positions.

However, getting more students to pursue careers in skilled trade will not happen immediately. So what can companies do now to help address the labour shortages?

Analytics could transform the construction industry

Houses are still built the same way they were 100 years ago.

EDMONTON, AB, Mar. 28, 2012, Troy Media/ – According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), an estimated 8,000 lbs. of waste is created with the construction of a 2,000 square foot house.

The majority of that, Klaas Rodenburg, CEO of Alberta Centre of Excellence for Building Information Modeling (aceBIM), a not for profit organization dedicated to introducing the benefits of BIM into industry, comes mostly from the on-site building process and consists of wood, cardboard and drywall. Framers, for example, will take the first 2 x 4 that they see and cut it to fit their specifications. They then discard the unused piece of 2 x 4 and grab a fresh piece and repeat the process. At the end of a job, the site is littered with a large stack of discarded and unusable pieces of framing and drywall.

But that is about to change.

Homes: still built one brick at a time

The housing industry has remained relatively unchanged in its production methods for the past century. And while home builders are using modern materials, new design methods, and state-of-the-art technology, the actual building of the house has not changed much over 100 years ago. They are still build one brick or piece of wood at a time.

While there has been an increase in labour productivity in most non-farming industries, the same cannot be said for construction. What went wrong? According to Rodenburg, the reason lies in the use of technology. While technology, he said, is “widely accepted in most non-farming industries . . . technology is not being readily accepted in the construction world. We have come a long way in using technology for design aspects of construction, but use it very little elsewhere in the industry.”

One technology that can be used by the housing industry is called lean manufacturing. Professor Lauri Koskela, a leader in lean manufacturing theory, says lean manufacturing helps “design production systems to minimize waste of materials, time, and effort in order to generate the maximum possible amount of value”.

Building Information Modeling (BIM), is a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility which can transform the housing industry into a lean manufacturing force.

BIM allows companies to utilize the waste created during the building process. All waste material is added to the digital knowledge base – or BIM system – and can then be re-routed to another project for utilization. The wood and drywall can even be cut to specification in a factory in advance and assembled at the site in only a few days. This cuts waste significantly in both energy consumption and overall wasted materials.

To go a step further, many lumber yards and contracting facilities have lumber and other expensive housing components lying around for extended periods, waiting to be used. During this time, materials can be damaged or ruined. BIM acts as an inventory control system to ensure material is used in a timely manner.

Duplication is another issue that plagues the housing industry. According to Rodenberg, “There are people out there (who) are saying we can reduce the cost of buildings by 50 per cent by not duplicating things and doing things over and over again. Especially when you start looking at energy, how much does a bad decision cost you over 30 years?”

A company using a BIM system based on lean manufacturing theory will only have materials on hand for upcoming projects. They will not have expensive product lying around. They know when they will need certain components and when to order them. The process of materials distribution and management is much more contained in a BIM system. Duplication is also not an issue. Since most components are completed in factory, there is less room for error.

Landmark Group of Builders in Alberta, Canada, is one building company using BIM principles and lean manufacturing to tackle these issues head on. It is using analytics to transition traditional building design methods to a virtual level: Two-dimensional drawings are turned into a three dimensional world. With the current advances in analytics and software, companies now have the ability to add intelligence to the building process. BIM analytics know almost every aspect of the building inside and out, before it is built. BIM can even tell you where pipes are located and how much water will be flowing through them.

You can even set up scenarios to test how a building will withstand earthquakes or if you moved it to another part of the world into a different climate. You can also monitor how minor changes in design – such as adding solar panels or sun shades to certain parts of the building – effect energy consumption.

Analyzing all the variations of the data provides companies, like Landmark Group, the ability to create sustainable and efficient homes of exceptional quality. But not only will the homes be efficient, they can be built in a fraction of the time of a conventional builder can.

But it doesn’t end there. BIM measurements are so exact that they are within one 16th of an inch in accuracy, according to Rodenberg, allowing for very precise building specifications. Materials can be cut and assembled in a factory and delivered to the building site pre-built.

While similar concepts exist with modular or manufactured homes, BIM buildings are still partially constructed on-site and are held to the same standards as a traditional on-site built home.

In 1993, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency did a study called Building Performance after Hurricane Andrew. The study found that panel-built and modular homes and BIM-style homes that had portions built in factories weathered the hurricane far better and outperformed their conventional counterparts.

Industry still hesitant to use BIM

FEMA stated that the reason for the difference came down to quality of workmanship. Both Modular and BIM-style factory manufactured parts had an inherently more rigid system that performed significantly better than conventionally-framed homes. FEMA was surprised to find that even rafters remained intact because of the rigid design structures.

The BIM model provides homes that are sustainable and of higher quality standards than traditionally built homes. BIM has created a truly industry changing process. However, the adoption of this process by the industry has yet to occur.

Learn more about BIM and these emerging trends by attending the upcoming Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud Conference where Klaas Rodenburg will be speaking.

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Google And Social Media Analytics


Social media started as an animal of its own. Companies were used to analyzing website statistics such as page views, total views, and bounce rate; however, with social media booming companies have found it harder and harder to truly analyze the effectiveness of their social media campaigns.

Now enters Google’s new social analytics feature. Google recently rolled out this feature on is standard Google Analytics dashboard. It is located under the tab standard reporting tab and provides a look at social media interactions with your page. Google’s new social analytics feature will give companies a glimpse at whether their social media efforts are working like never before.

Google has created a tool that makes it easy to see how many visitors are coming from social media outlets as well as conversion rates of interactions. “This is really good for people who don’t know how social media is impacting their sites,” said Jonathon Allen, director of Search Engine Watch. “You can track conversions and attribute them to social media.” This is something that many companies have been struggling with. Google’s new social media analytics tool may be the answer to some of the questions regarding how to truly determine if your social media efforts are paying off.

In addition, Google introduced a new service, Social Data Hub, which enables marketers to see which URLs were shared across social networks, as well as comments and conversations connected to those URLs, matching users to sharing events. This will allow companies to have a clearer picture of their social media presence. They can determine a little easier what outlets are working and which aren’t.

This platform will allow companies to allocate more time to what is working and less to what isn’t. They can also see what isn’t working and determine if a new strategy needs to be discussed. Google is still working out some major issues. For example, the current analytics tool does not take into account views from vendors such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck. This can leave out a significant reach of customers. Therefore, like with anything, this insight should be viewed along with other data.

This is a huge step though or the social media world and I look forward to seeing how the statistics hold up over time.

Storage Moving To The Cloud

More and more companies are slowly moving all or part of their storage systems from traditional SAN or NAS storage to cloud based storage options. Companies are becoming more receptive to the idea of cloud based storage and companies are enthusiastically jumping on board.

The main concern that many companies have is over security. We always feel that something close to use is safer. In fact,  InformationWeek, recently published a research paper, Research: State of Storage 2012, that touches on many of the concerns surrounding both SAN and cloud-based storage solutions. The author, Kurt Marko, states that 79% of 313 survey respondents still have major concerns about security with cloud based storage services, while 52% (down slightly from 55% for 2011) have reliability and availability concerns.

However, this is only a tiny bit of the story. Companies are getting very used to the idea of using cloud storage for archive purposes, effectively building a hybrid approach, which values SAN for high-speed tier 1 access and cloud storage for everything else. As companies switch their archived documents and tier 2  documents to the cloud, they will start feeling more and more secure with the process. If the cloud works efficiently for them in these areas they will be much more likely to switch their tier 1 documents to the cloud as well.

So where does this leave the SAN and NAS storage companies? The Networking computing site brings up some great points in this area, most purveyors of cloud technologies, storage included, rely on SAN technology in their own data centers, simply shifting the SAN market from the enterprise to the service provider. However, the days of onsite SANs may still be numbered, caused by the migration of other technologies and services into the cloud. The real question here for IT pros and SAN vendors should actually be, how deep will businesses dive into the cloud?

These are legitimate questions for those involved in the cloud or SAN/NAS fields. What does the future hold for data storage?

Netflix Needs Analytics?


We live in a society of instant gratification. Netflix feeds the fire by offering instant movies streaming to your computer or television. No need to wait for movies in the mail. Another feature that is often talked about is the viewer recommendation system.

Netflix monitors data on viewing habits and is able to create a list of movies, that according to data analysis, shows you will like. Netflix has said it needs to make its recommendation system better. As Netflix’s computer analytics software learns more about each subscriber, the suggestions aim for even narrower targets and better recommendations as a whole.

Netflix executives said they are building on the system. Currently they have approximately 13 years of data to run through to help determine what movies are best suited to certain types of people. The better the recommendation system, the happier the customer. Netflix claims that 2/3rds of the instant views by subscribers is based off of recommendations. This makes it all the more important to ensure the analytics used in determining what viewers might like are accurate.

The goal now is to learn individual viewing preferences so well that every recommendation is a hit with that subscriber, says Ciancutti, Netflix’s vice president of product engineering. The idea behind the recommendation system is to keep viewers inundated with “new” unseen movies so they are not forced to search out videos of their choosing.

Netflix has a limited offering of streamable movies, so the key is to keep customers from looking for specific movies. Instead keep them happy with what is available. “The signals we are getting about what people are watching, when they are watching and how much they are watching are much richer than ever before,” says Neil Hunt, Netflix’s chief product officer. Even if customers do not want to take the time to rate a movie, Netflix can help determine if they liked the movie or not. Did they watch multiple episodes of a television series, did they stop half-way through and never finish it. If they watched multiple episodes this most likely means they like the show, if they stop halfway through and never watch it again, they probably didn’t care for the movie or show.

Using analytics, Netflix hopes to better be able to understand consumer viewing habits and truly offer a recommendation system like none other available. Imagine being able to rely on the recommendations and never have to search out reviews for movies again. Netflix’s use of analytics could be a movie lover’s dream come true.