BJC reduces supply chain expenses with Tableau



BJC HealthCare is a non-profit healthcare organization based in St. Louis, Missouri. Before Tableau, data lived in an enterprise resource planning system (ERP) and it was difficult to identify savings opportunities. With recent healthcare reforms, BJC needed a tool that could query data quickly—and share cost-saving insights across the company.

BJC HealthCare's focus is to provide excellent healthcare services to residents in parts of Illinois and Missouri. In response to a changing healthcare landscape, BJC started a multi-year initiative to reduce supply expenses from 23.5 percent of net revenue to 19 percent.

In video 1, Lynn Kersting, Strategic Manager, Supply Chain, discusses how the analytics team pulls data from their Microsoft SQL Server data mart to visualize in Tableau. BJC leverages sites within Tableau Server to securely share data with different parts of the organization—increasing transparency and reducing cost.

In video 2, Lynn discusses Tableau engagement at BJC. With help from Tableau consultants on site, BJC encouraged internal training across the organization for both Server and Desktop users. BJC has also created their own internal user group to encourage collaboration. Lynn says that “just being able to put the story out there” has led to many “ah-hah” moments for BJC.


Tableau: What prompted your need for Tableau?
Lynn Kersting, Strategic Manager, Supply Chain: The changes in the healthcare reform that we're anticipating starting in 2011 really drove what the organization started to look at supply expense as cost reduction. Our goal in a multi-year initiative was to reduce our supply expense as a percent of net revenue from 23.5 percent down to 19 percent.

And we still wanted to increase our patient outcomes, improve our patient outcomes, and increase our patient satisfaction. We have to do all of this while reducing our cost.

So we had a whole analytics team that was added. By doing so, we were able to bring in data. The data that we had prior to that was there, but it was not easy to get it and it wasn't friendly to work with. So our data team, our data developers, working in our supply chain data mart in SQL Server brought all that data together after months and months of working with our ERP system and having all the data feed to us, brought all that data to us, and then Tableau Server is our method of deploying that data to the rest of the organization and having transparency.

The best part about using Tableau is being able to see what's happening so quickly, just drag-and-drop capabilities, different graphs that you could use, different vizzes—just being able to put the story out there in front of someone that they can see it.

Tableau: What is the impact of increasing transparency across the organization?
Lynn: We have definitely driven to a more data-driven decision culture within BJC. And what's wonderful about it was our leadership really saw the importance not only of having the data, but also having our engagement team, which is the team that I lead.

And that was about getting that out to the customers, getting it out into the organization. It allowed for us to have a wider depth and breadth of all the analysts that could do the work, more than what we could accomplish.

Tableau: Can you share how you use Tableau sites to share data across the organization?
Lynn: We, in the engagement part of supply chain analytics, we reach out to our entire organization.

If they wanted access to the sites, we gave them a site. It was self-managed by them and self-maintained. That opened up our user base. The growth started at the hospitals, and within the hospitals and slowly spread throughout the rest of the organization.

And it's just been a wonderful experience finally to see the networking across the hospitals and the system has been amazing.

Increasing engagement & collaboration

Tableau: How have you increased engagement with Tableau across your organization?
Lynn: BJC really saw it was important as far as the engagement aspect of supply chain analytics to really be able to engage with all the customers and users of Tableau within our organization.

Part of that was creating internal training. And that's been really exciting. We are actually very fortunate to work with two Tableau consultants that have been on our team—virtually two to three consultants—every year for the last couple years.

Tableau: What kind of training opportunities do you offer?
Lynn: Currently, we have four different training classes available. We have one that's just Tableau Server viewer, for those individuals who don't have the Desktop license and are just viewing online. And we have a basics, intermediate, and an advanced class. In the past year of having all of our training, 325 employees have taken at least one of those courses. And in the past year, we've taught at least 70 classes.

So it's not just about supply expense. We're really leading that charge within BJC Healthcare of fostering that user base. We do that through our training. We do it through our internal user group. We have five sessions a year, probably have 50 to 70 employees who show up every time.

This has been my best job I've ever had. Being able to bring that to our users within the system, to be able to provide those training classes and teach them and see those "ah-hah" moments for them during training—just collaborating with them and partnering with them.

Tableau: What has been the most exciting part for you throughout this experience?
Lynn: But what's been really wonderful for me, this has been my best job I've ever had. This is what I do. And to be able to bring that to our users within the system, to be able to provide those training classes and teach them and see those "ah-hah" moments for them during training—just collaborating with them and partnering with them.

Tableau: How has Tableau streamlined your data analysis?
Lynn: So many hours in my past that I've spent taking a CSV file or a text file or multiple tabs in an Excel document or Access and just trying to get the data in a format to use, with Tableau is just such a time saver.

The best parts about using Tableau is being able to see what's happening so quickly, just drag-and-drop capabilities, different graphs that you could use, different vizzes, just being able to put the story out there in front of someone that they can see it. If you put it in front of them and they don't understand or don't see it, then it's not the right viz. There's another viz that's going to give you that answer.

Tableau: What has been the biggest “ah-hah” moment for you so far?
Lynn: I would say the biggest "ah-hah" moment I've had since using Tableau, since 2009, was that ability to bring what would have been probably five or six different reports that I would have ran separately to try to drill in and find an answer if I got that far.

Pulling all of the information at one time and just being able to selectively drill into, change dimensions, find that answer and sometimes even though you can't prove it previously, that maybe that answer was A.

You couldn't answer it, you couldn't prove it just by pulling that data. That, all of a sudden, by having Tableau, you're able to say, “oh, my gosh, here it is.” This really is exactly what we were saying, “the proof is right here, you can see it, look.” That's been awesome. That's probably the biggest "ah-hah" moment. And that was from the beginning.



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