Earlier this year, ZOLL hosted a webinar on Operationalizing Data. After the webinar, we asked attendees to share what, if anything, their organizations were doing to track KPIs, manage their data, and transform it into actionable insights. Over 300 EMS professionals from across the United States responded, and the results surprised us!
We asked Ronnie Thomson, Chief Technology Officer, Vice President, Research & Development, to weigh in on some of the findings. Ronnie brings more than 20 years of experience leading software engineering organizations to ZOLL, including building capabilities for high availability SaaS offerings in an Agile environment.
What are your thoughts / advice on how to create a more integrated system – whether that's software or operations?
In large part you are leveraging the value of the cloud when you choose a software as a service [SaaS] solution. As a business owner, this allows you to consume multiple applications in a much more integrated fashion, as opposed to the traditional enterprise model which is:
- You go and buy several products as independent things.
- Each product has its own data stores and integrations.
- You, the customer, are left with all the problems of trying to integrate the data and make sure that it’s flowing between the different applications and processes.
That's the problem that a cloud provider solves for you. Now you worry less about the mechanics of how to make it all happen. It's the vendor that you choose who is responsible for managing integration.
How can a SaaS solution help to alleviate the staffing resource issue many of our customers face?
If you are going to buy software or continue to use enterprise, on-premise software, then you are going to continue to need that particular skill set onboard, or outsource it to a company that is going to charge you hourly for that service. Either way, whether it’s on staff our outsourced, it’s coming out of your budget and is costly. Then there’s the issue of keeping your software solutions up to date. For example, if you're using an Oracle database you need to have people on staff that understand Oracle. You either have to know it yourself or build those skill sets within your team to at least be able to support operationally running your business.
If you utilize a SaaS solution for your EMS billing, ePCR or dispatch needs, these technologies, especially when integrated, are improving efficiencies within your system that reduces or eliminates the need for a dedicated staffing resource to manage integration, reporting and compliance. That said, even if you have an integrated system you still need to be investing in training and making sure that your staff is able to understand how to utilize all the tools of the software. When we talk about EMS organizations having a data retention problem, the data archiving security of the system – they all remain your issue and you have to continue to invest in that.
How does cloud-based software help with compliance?
One of the benefits of choosing a cloud-based provider is that it’s intrinsically in our interests to ensure that we understand these issues and we have people on staff that are dedicated to managing all of the details and complexities around compliance and governance. At ZOLL for example, we have data retention and archiving strategies in our solution. We're building on industry standards, cloud-based platforms that provide all kinds of security infrastructure.
For our customers, continuing to keep up with how things are moving in the area of security, compliance and governance requires enormous investment in time and people and technology. Cloud-based providers have the resources to invest in those things, and be able to spread the risk across everything that they're doing. As a customer dealing with this independently, it’s moving too fast and they will struggle to keep up. If you want to really have a truly secure system that is compliant where your data is fully protected then you really need to work with a SaaS solution.
Does it surprise you that only 34 percent of our respondents said they are good at collecting and analyzing data?
I’m surprised it’s that high! I think that a lot of organizations who are collecting and analyzing data today are doing so because they hear that they should be. They don't really understand why they're doing it and what they're trying to get out of it. They’re collecting this heap of data, but they don’t understand what the value is or what high quality data looks like. And even when they have some way to visualize it, I don't think that they really understand two crucial things:
- What is the data telling me?
- What should I do to my business to respond to what I think it’s telling me?
Avoid the desire to just start collecting data without a plan, just to check a box. Like so many other things in life, data is about quality over quantity. Otherwise you will put an enormous amount of effort into collecting it, which will result in being overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of data with no idea as to how to clean it, organize it, or get the most meaningful pieces out of it that will have an impact on your business.
“Instead, ask yourself “what results or better outcomes am I trying to achieve for my business?” Then figure out what's the minimum amount of data that you need to help you solve that problem.”
Only build out the solutions that you need to collect that specific data. When you focus like this, you have the resources – both financially and in manpower – to do it well rather than being deluged by complexity. When you’ve executed this successfully, then you can iterate to make it better and expand it over time.
Our customers reported that the biggest challenges their organizations face are lack of resource, complicated systems and no knowledge about what their KPIs are. What’s your response to that?
Of those, I think the biggest issue is really KPIs. I don't think a lot of businesses have a really crisp understanding of what’s driving performance in their business – what are the levers that are driving performance in their business?
“Staff can be hired with the right skills, systems can be simplified – especially if you use a SaaS vendor. But if you don't know what it is you're trying to do to begin with, then that’s the most immediate thing and the biggest problem.”
You shouldn't be tracking all the metrics. You should be choosing which ones make sense for you to track.
- What do you want to achieve?
- What is the success criteria that you have for your business?
- What do you think is the subset of data that will give you better insight into how your business is running?
- What piece of data do you have that's critical to improve or change?
Collect the minimum amount of data that you need to be able to tell you how you're performing today and then figure what you’re going to do. Is it profitability of the business, is it throughput? Is it making the business more efficient? Whatever the metric is, then start actually collecting. Next start pulling levers to manipulate the processes you want changed and observe the effect on your business.
Want more information? To watch the webinar, click here: