This is the question posed to our organisation as we go live with our App Centre and the next Open Data Platform (ODP) apps as well as a week of promotion regarding our new Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS).

We have always held with the concept that Business Intelligence is about the use of the data that we collect: that we turn data into information that data delivers insight that enables Business Intelligence. However that doesn’t happen in a ‘just because’ way. We don’t have Business Intelligence just because we collect data.

At a recent event the speaker posed the following analogy:

  • Data is tomato is a fruit
  • Information is tomato doesn’t work well in a fruit salad

We can add to that analogy and pose:

  • Insight is tomato goes well with basil and balsamic vinegar
  • Business Intelligence is knowledge that tomato is favoured to avocado in a salad by over 75% of adults in the UK and is therefore a safer addition to the Christmas Party starter!

But, the question posed was ‘what is Business Intelligence in clinical research?’. For us it is the delivery of a number of elements. Our organisation is charged with enabling the NHS to deliver clinical research effectively, therefore to us, a key output of Business Intelligence is making the most of the swathes of data we have to enable the NHS to create insight with regard to its capacity and capability to deliver clinical research. However, simply having this information does not suddenly enable the NHS to know exactly where to deploy research capacity. The delivery of Business Intelligence requires analytics tools the like of which we have deployed within the newly live App Centre and then a cultural change of mind set as to how information is used. Some of those mind set changes are:

  • When dealing with near real time data numbers will go up as well as down
  • Access to data creates competition which crates data worry
  • Business Intelligence needs to be ‘all the nines’ accurate or cannot be used effectively
  • One piece of analytics leads to the next, not the answer

We have always laid claim to the fact that we will know we have imbedded Business Intelligence into our organisation when questions to the Business Intelligence unit are not asked to deliver answers but are asked to create insight to drive the next question. For a period of time organisations have tried to create a culture of continuous improvement that is not linked to or based on the delivery of Business Intelligence. This is something we are changing and more and more we see this changing in the NHS. The capabilities to make an improvement to any service are now there, what needs to follow (and perhaps should have preceded) is the intelligence to know what to change and what the delivery benefit will be in making that change. As Business Intelligence and the analytical capabilities  become mainstream so can the ability to deliver continuous improvement effectively, grounded in benefit delivery not the next best, loudest idea.

In our organisation the delivery of Business Intelligence brings about one very key win, the art of prediction. We have managed information to report on performance a quarter or more ago. We now have the capability to manage performance considering yesterday’s outputs and predict and mobilise resource based on this. No longer do we have to manage with well aged and mature data we now can utilise fast and fizzy data fed through a well oiled Business Intelligence ‘engine’.

… and back to the question posed, ‘What is Business Intelligence in clinical research?’ To us it is the single biggest benefit that the delivery of truly effective information systems brings, the ability to unleash the value of big(ish) data to improve the delivery of clinical research in the NHS.