REVIEWER: Norm Costin, vice president of IT at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA).

BACKGROUND: BCBSMA was founded 71 years ago by a group of community-minded business leaders. Today, headquartered in Boston, BCBSMA provides coverage to more than 3 million members. BCBSMA believes in rewarding doctors and hospitals for delivering safe and effective care, and in empowering patients to take more responsibility, become educated health care consumers and become stronger partners with their doctors. BCBSMA is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

PLATFORMS: Windows servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: BCBSMA wanted to evolve its business performance reporting solution from an archaic 12-page, 50+ metric spreadsheet and a visually straining spider chart, to a sophisticated, streamlined application that could track critical metrics and drive corporate performance to improve decision-making. We selected IBM Cognos’ dashboarding capabilities to refine and improve the accessibility of our key corporate performance metrics and to ensure that these metrics were updated continuously and consistently throughout the year. We were able to deploy the Cognos Dashboard in just one month from project inception to solution launch, using our existing data warehouse. The solution, which is now used by more than 2,500 corporate decision-makers, gives management a clear and accurate picture of the company’s business status at any time. Key features of the solution include the ability to provide accessible data via the existing intranet and a landing page listing of the status of the top 10 key corporate metrics in real time.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We use the IBM Cognos BI dashboarding capabilities to track actual performance against benchmarks. Our business leaders can quickly view the dashboard, focus on the specific factors driving trends in performance and measure the impact on BCBSMA’s business. We are also able to track administrative costs, sales, expenses and customer satisfaction. With an accurate and real-time view of these metrics across the organization, our executives are able to make the necessary adjustments to run an efficient and cost-effective operation. Additionally, the customer satisfaction dashboard allows executives to realize which initiatives have the greatest effect on customers and which areas may need improvement. If an area is underperforming, an executive can drill down into the underlying data to find the source of the problem and correct it.

STRENGTHS: Using Cognos software, we were able to condense our large volumes of information to show the business big picture in an up-to-date, easy-to-understand format. The product’s highly intuitive graphic analyses enable our business leaders to quickly grasp trends in business performance and identify underperforming areas. The IBM Cognos Dashboard also allows our decision-makers to view the interrelationships of complex statistical data from a variety of sources such as Cognos multidimensional data cubes, third-party cubes, managed reports or flat files in a single visualization. Additionally, Cognos offers prepackaged, broad-based support for quality methodologies like Six Sigma.

WEAKNESSES: As with any new technology, we ran into the challenge of getting our 2,500+ corporate decision-makers - across sales, marketing, finance, HR, logistics and distribution departments - familiar with the solution and its capabilities. It took some time to train everyone on the broad range of features.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated other offerings, but Cognos offered the “in-the-box” dashboarding capabilities we needed to rapidly create our Web-based visual reporting tool. The tool has been getting rave reviews from our business leaders, and the success keeps building. Cognos software lets us look at our key performance metrics in a way that delivers immediate insight, which is invaluable.

DELIVERABLES: We track administrative costs, sales, expenses and customer satisfaction through our Cognos Dashboard. Drawing information from a number of data sources across the company, including IBM DB2, the Cognos Dashboard allows our managers and decision-makers to track daily results against plan.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Through the Cognos support Web site and telephone hotline, we always had live, interactive technical assistance during our deployment stage. This support was essential in helping us turn around this project in just one month.

DOCUMENTATION: IBM Cognos provided a number of easy-to-use guides and online documents that were helpful resources during our installation and deployment stages.

IBM Cognos BI Dashboards
Cognos, an IBM Company
15 Wayside Road
Burlington, MA 01803
(781) 229-6600

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