How business intelligence transformed care and efficiency at a Dutch special-needs nonprofit

Jun 05, 20228 mins
Digital TransformationIT Leadership

With a need to streamline financial stability, employee decision-making, and overall quality of service, Philadelphia Healthcare, the care management company for disabled adults reshaped its culture to focus more on data analytics.

Credit: Philadelphia Healthcare

A few years ago, Philadelphia Healthcare realized it needed a digital transformation – the Amersfoort-based non-profit was faced with organizing a massive amount of data from about 9,000 clients, 7,000 employees, an extended network of 6,500 volunteers, and about 16,000 client family members.

What it required was a solution that embraced data management and big-data trends to better streamline personalised management and client service for disabled adults needing residential, occupational, recreational, and other services such as community building and helping clients find meaningful employment.

Fortunately, a group of technology enthusiasts at Philadelphia – including Manager of Data Delivery and Analytics Jasper Drenth – had already begun to explore the concept of Business Intelligence (BI) as the potential answer.

“One of our mission statements is to give clients as normal a life as possible,” Drenth says. BI – which leverages software and services to transform data into actionable insights that inform an organization’s strategic and tactical business decisions – promised to provide Philadelphia with the right tools to deliver better care.

Jasper Drenth

The non-profit now has an advanced BI dashboard that aggregates access to data from more than 500 facilities and a dedicated BI technology team planning an intelligent-automation strategy that includes personalised digital assistants for every employee.

A new outlook

The transformation began in 2018, when a so-called “hobby club” of data-focused technology enthusiasts at Philadelphia and among the organisation’s board of directors came to the conclusion that BI could be the ideal way forward.

“At that time, not much was done with data and business intelligence and analytics were unexplored territory,” Drenth says.

Data in the organisation was managed on a facility-based level, often via individual Excel spreadsheets that only collected data at the department, employee, or client level, providing minimal overall visibility for decision-makers.

For example, to make a decision on whether a facility had enough money to buy a new table, or even organise a barbecue, it was necessary to find and view financial data from numerous sources, and even analyse department-specific spreadsheets and data stores – a time-consuming task for what should be a fairly simple decision.

But since the company’s implementation of the Pyramid Analytics Decision Intelligence Platform, managers and employees can call up the data they need to make decisions within seconds on personalised and intuitive dashboards.

“Now they don’t have to spend time on collecting the data, just read the results in the dashboard and define the actions they want to take,” says Drenth.

Building a team and implementing the solution

Philadelphia Healthcare’s digital transformation has been an ongoing journey since the company asked Drenth – one of the group that did early research on the potential of data analytics – to manage the implementation of BI.

He agreed, but only if he could put together his own dedicated team that would carry on a long-term strategy. Within a short time frame, his team vetted BI platforms and decided on Pyramid Analytics for its front end for data analysis and visualisation. Within six months, the front-end dashboard was up and running through collaboration with a reseller of Pyramid that worked with Philadelphia Healthcare through the first year of the project.

At the same time, Drenth was laying the groundwork for a long-term relationship with BI within the company by building a BI competence center and team to implement a complete data-optimisation strategy in-house.

“It’s a very important thing to understand that BI is not a one-off project,” he said. “The need for information is always changing and we made sure we are prepared for this and embedded this culture within the organisation.”

Introduction to BI

The initial dashboard gave Philadelphia Healthcare’s managers – about 300 in all – access to a BI front end that aggregated data from a new back-end data warehouse that simultaneously pulled data from all facilities. The managers gained access to and analysis of data from a number of metrics for employees, the company, and its clients, such as employee absenteeism and productivity related to client care; company financial performance and other data; and client satisfaction.

This unprecedented real-time access to data also allowed the organisation to improve its own efficiency and productivity and thus better serve clients, Drenth says.

For example, labour is one of the company’s main costs, which is why being able to access data about employee absenteeism across the entire organisation was an important aspect of the dashboard. Previously, an HR professional at a facility would collect the data each month in a  spreadsheet, making only the previous month’s data accessible to managers to analyse how their staff was performing.

“Now they have a dashboard, so they can see the absenteeism across Philadelphia as a whole, with specific information on a location level,” Drenth says. Due to the high cost of labour, having access to this data can directly affect financial performance and the level of client service.

“We have to keep track of those costs and which locations are performing well – or not – to make changes as necessary.”

Cultural implications

Implementing such a game-changing solution is always tricky across an organisation when employees have been used to doing things the same way for many years, Drenth says.

While managers embraced the dashboard once it was up and running, there was a learning curve for the company’s BI team in terms of discovering what specific types of data and analysis were most important for managers to access.

The BI team went on a roadshow to company facilities across the Netherlands to introduce the dashboard to managers before its rollout. In the beginning, it was difficult for managers to tell the team what they needed from the solution without first seeing how it would work.

To garner better feedback, the team adopted an agile programming style and built a “minimal viable product” to showcase how the dashboard would work. This allowed managers to see and experience the data, which led to a better understanding of how it could be useful to them, Drenth says. The early prototyping also encouraged broad adoption of the solution once it was officially rolled out.

“Due to the way we handled this project, we saw managers adopting the discipline of business intelligence.”

Expanding the BI Vision

Once all managers had access to the Pyramid BI solution, the team expanded the platform to all 7,000 employees across all facilities. Each care professional was given access to their own customised dashboard through a single sign-on solution based on their individual role and level of security for accessing sensitive data.

This phase of the project accelerated the rollout of a new organisational management style at the company to focus on self-organised employee teams rather than a top-down management approach.

Previously, employee teams would wait for managers to distribute the information they needed to carry out specific tasks. This would cause delays in achieving care and service objectives because managers had such daunting task loads, with some having responsibility for five to 10 facilities, he said.

Now that every employee has real-time access to the data he or she needs to do their jobs, they can make – and are in fact encouraged to make – decisions that affect their clients far more quickly, which ultimately results in overall better care and service, Drenth says. “Everyone is using his or her time more wisely.”

Philadelphia Healthcare’s future goals for its ongoing BI strategy are to implement predictive data analysis as well as a combination of robotic process automation and AI to drive quicker and better decision making.

The latter solution will create AI across the company’s business and technology applications so they can interact with data in real time, providing each employee at the company with his or her own virtual assistant. This assistant will act as its own digital care professional, ultimately working alongside the employee to help maintain productivity and provide optimal care.