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InfoCube Enables Aurora Consolidated Laboratories to Measure Progress of Long-Term Goals

Published
  • November 01 1999, 1:00am EST
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BACKGROUND: Aurora Consolidated Laboratories (ACL) provides laboratory services to Aurora Health Care, Wisconsin's largest not-for-profit healthcare provider, with more than 18,000 employees and 178,000 clients. ACL's IT team needed a way to give senior management a high-level view of the organization that would help them measure progress toward key business goals such as reduced laboratory costs, higher customer satisfaction and expansion of ACL's for-profit lab testing services.

PLATFORMS: InfoCube is a WebFOCUS application template used to rapidly develop standard Web-based reports for staff and management. The template allowed rapid implementation of a Web-based management information system which pulls data from Windows SQL Server which, in turn, collects data from legacy databases in the organization.

PROBLEM SOLVED: ACL's managers set long-term goals for the organization, but lacked timely information about how well the organization was meeting those goals. With 13 hospitals and numerous clinics across the state, we had difficulty consolidating thousands of records each day from about 100 cost centers into high-level reports that managers could use to track their progress. Using WebFOCUS from Information Builders, Microsoft's SQL Server database and IIS Web server, we developed a system that gathered data from legacy databases throughout our system and allowed senior managers to view this information with a Web browser. Collecting the data was only part of the problem, however. The most time-consuming part of our project was deciding what data was important and how it could be incorporated into meaningful reports for managers. InfoCube, which includes modules for the eight most common analyses used in business, gave us a huge head start. Using the InfoCube template, we were able to bring the entire application online in about six months.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: InfoCube dramatically reduced our development time and costs. Defining and developing the reports we needed could easily have cost us a year of custom development, adding as much as $1 million to the project. With InfoCube our staff was able to test and prototype the system very quickly. The result was a system that achieved our design goals, well within time and budget.

STRENGTHS: WebFOCUS InfoCube's ability to access our legacy databases really minimized the learning curve for our developers. InfoCube is based on Information Builder's real-world experience, and the template gives you not only code, but the wisdom of many other companies' efforts to define what they really wanted to know about their business. The Web-based graphics modules, with point-and-click drill downs to source data, were an excellent product feature that helped us greatly in our development activities.

WEAKNESSES: The InfoCube template is just a starting point. Your developers will need skills in HTML and in authoring tools such as Microsoft FrontPage editor to be able to modify the modules. Adding custom graphics to your Web site will require products like Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Photodraw.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Given our decision to implement our Web reporting system with WebFOCUS, the InfoCube template was the logical choice. Custom solutions using outside Web consultants would have been very time-consuming and costly for our organization. The InfoCube template allowed us to cut both our development time and costs by more than 50 percent.

PRODUCT DELIVERABLES: When defining our goals at the management level, we used a "balanced scorecard" management model to decide where we wanted to go and how we would measure progress. The InfoCube template moved us several rungs up the ladder in actually executing that vision. The result was a system that delivers Web-based views of our key operational and financial information that managers need, developed on time and within budget.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Information Builders's quick-start program for InfoCube includes not only eight "data exploration" modules that we could use as starting points, but it includes on-site installation and testing, an orientation program for our users and five days of technical support. This program took us well into the implementation stage and really cut the learning curve for our internal developers and users. Information Builders provided the support we needed to help make the project a huge success.

DOCUMENTATION: The InfoCube documentation was clear and provided our internal developers with the information needed for customization of the modules.

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