Unearthing the hidden riches of your organisation’s data

Posted : August 24, 2023 -

HSJ article link: https://www.hsj.co.uk/service-design/unearthing-the-hidden-riches-of-your-organisations-data/7035412.article

The board of directors at AphA write on ways an organisation can benefit from proper refinement of data, shedding light on three critical functions – business intelligence, data science and analytics

Untold stories of a precious resource are running through your organisation. Left underground, it provides little benefit. Forage around at the surface level and you’ll gain a brief glimpse of its potential.
But its true riches will elude you without professional extraction and refinement. Only with the expertise will your organisation tap the benefits of this abundant resource.

So, what are we talking about with this (perhaps slightly laboured) metaphor?

We mean data, of course.

There are numerous ways to leverage it and, if you’ll permit us to keep on with the mining analogy, we will explain some of the key ways your organisation can benefit from its proper refinement. Information, informatics, business intelligence, analytics and data science might all seem like the same thing. But they’re not, and it’s important to understand not only how they differ, but which professionals your organisation needs to properly harness them.

Business intelligence is best pictured as the derrick routinely bringing oil to the surface. BI involves automated processes that allow you to use your data, often via dashboards or scheduled reports. These will contain high-level information from which key information can be imparted, or from which a judgement can be made. This could be in the form of assurance or the automatic detection of something that needs action or further attention.

Good business intelligence reduces the likelihood of you being unaware of something you should know about. The more derricks that can be built, the easier it is to access the raw material that can make your organisation more responsive.

And the staff you need to make it happen? This is work for data engineers: professionals who can dig out data of consequence and convey it clearly to your organisation’s decision-makers.

Now what about another of those terms — analytics?

If business intelligence is the routine extraction and refinement of your data, analytics is the voyage into its unknown depths: expeditions that typically answer specific questions and require a different skill set.

To be successful in their voyages, data analysts will need to be able to convert a complex question or problem into something measurable. This requires both a good knowledge of the subject matter involved and the technical skills to extract what is needed from the relevant data.

Once it’s extracted, this material remains unusable without one more crucial skill. Analysts need the ability to turn this raw resource into something meaningful or actionable: a refined output can now help you understand why something has happened or model something that will happen.

A misstep or miscommunication in any one of these stages can dramatically alter the output. Are you looking for four candles or fork handles?

The last function we will touch on is data science. This is generally used as an umbrella term to describe a myriad of things such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, statistics, data mining, or advanced analytics. For now, in our opinion you don’t need to understand the difference between these subcategories, we just want you to think of data science as the function which tells you what’s going to happen.

Sticking with our increasingly tedious raw material metaphor, data scientists are the people who can tap into your precious resource and predict its future. This could mean identifying the risk of something happening or coming up with several potential scenarios to assist with decision-making.

The constant thread which runs through all three functions — beyond just the data — is support for decision-making. The stronger these three functions are, the better decisions your organisation can make — something we will explore more deeply in a future piece.

With business intelligence, you can speed up your organisation’s responsiveness. With analytics, you can investigate and understand why something has happened — giving you the insights you need to prevent it from occurring again. And with data science, you can get a glimpse into the future.

I hope this has helped you understand the differences between these three critical functions of your organisation, as well as the importance of investing in the professional development of your data engineers, analysts and scientists.

If you want to learn more about these role families, look no further than the National Competency Framework for Data Professionals in Health and Care, which the Association of Professional Healthcare Analysts developed in collaboration with NHS England.

These expert colleagues can use their skills and subject matter knowledge to get the most out of the vast amount of data your organisation has already collected.


Are you a leader working across health and care and believe that data is the new currency for transformation? Join us at the inaugural congress which combines HSJ’s access and understanding of NHS leadership challenges and AphA’s deep knowledge of the transformative potential of analytics for a unique and collaborative conversation.

Register here.