A Discussion with Tammy Larson:
Setting up your Epic Reporting Team to Improve Value and Reduce Waste
Tammy Larson, HSi’s Senior Healthcare Technical consultant with a number of Epic certification and a focus in Grand Central, Clarity Data Model, and reporting, shares her insight in maximizing the use of the reporting team. She gives us a behind-the-scenes look at common struggles, steps for improvement, and more.
Q: Are there some common issues you see that prevent value or create waste within reporting teams?
A: There never seems to be enough report developers. The queues are frequently backed up and the expectation is for quicker turn-around times. Unfortunately, the volume of requests versus the number of staff cannot be properly supported. As reporting teams develop, the organization sees value in creating information from data, and the requests increase exponentially from the time of initial go-live. Sometimes, reporting requests are submitted and by the time the resources are available to work on them, the user has found another solution or has decided they don’t need the report any longer. This can create a lot of waste and frustration for your team.
Q: Are there steps you can take to prevent the waste?
A: One process that gets overlooked is having a centralized ticketing system for your report requests. Often, an organization will have the system in place for application tickets but miss the value in having requests submitted the same way for your reporting team. Creating tickets allows visibility into the requests so that they can be prioritized and addressed in a way that is predictable and provides the most value to the entire organization. Capturing the business need in the ticket helps to control the scope of the request and allow prioritization based on guidelines or governance groups’ direction.
A ticketing system will also prevent waste when two report writers are working on requests that could be consolidated into one. Work queues keep track of status so data analysts can be working on multiple reports as they are waiting for validation from an end-user or waiting for an application or workflow change. Since the requestor needs to participate in the creation of the report, documentation of the progress and next steps often helps to keep dependent tasks from slowing or stopping the progress. Setting the expectation that a requestor will make time to validate data and ensure the report is presented in a way best fitting the business need will help to improve the output of your team. Documenting the follow-up and outcomes of a request is important to be able to measure the value provided.
Another factor affecting the team’s value is leadership. A reporting leader that understands the operational requests, has developed a rapport with their peers, and can remove barriers to completing tasks for report writers can significantly impact the team’s productivity. Leadership helps to set expectations, enforce policies when the requestor is not responding, and protect developers from distractions. It is easy to prioritize the work requiring the least effort. The temptation to pick these off and feel more productive creates opportunity costs preventing more valuable work from being performed. A good leader will monitor the work and help keep the team focused.
Q: You mentioned the requestor can have an impact on completing the request. In these busy times, is it difficult to get that participation?
A: Yes, sometimes. This is where setting the expectation early can help. I have seen policies supporting the closure of a ticket when a requestor does not respond to the third email requesting validation or more information. This does help to move on but requires documentation of attempts and support from your team leader.
One of the most effective things I have seen is to develop a data champion or superuser for each department. These users will understand their department’s data and workflows and can be the first stop for information requests. This step improves the quality of the requests along with the reporting team’s efficiency and productivity. Superusers can be taught to create simple reports or configure report parameters to meet some requests without submitting them to the reporting team. They can help to educate the department about what data is available, address data integrity issues, and teach basic reporting self-service skills. One of the most frustrating things as a report writer is to create a report that never gets used. Having a department superuser to validate the business need and train the department about the value of the information can reduce this problem substantially.
Q: What is your role when working with a new client?
A: That depends on the client’s needs. If I am engaged as a supplemental data analyst, my role is to work a queue and help to increase the output, but I have been engaged as a team leader that can develop processes to improve the team’s efficiency and value as well. I can provide skills training to a new team or help to develop data superusers in the departments. Superusers that have lower volume data consumption can become disengaged and when a big application change suddenly provides more information, re-engaging that superuser may become a priority that I am requested to address. My experiences allow me to provide solutions addressing issues and create long-term value to help analysts that are just trying to keep up with demand.
From a data perspective, the power of the reporting team is invaluable. If you would like to dig deeper into optimizing the efforts of your reporting team with Tammy, she may be reached at HSi@hsi-corp.com.