Get more from your data

The Analytics and Business Intelligence Team, from left to right: Cathie Joynt, Dave Berrie, Tom Cook, Kelly Miller, and Jonathan Greenberg.

Using Tableau Software’s visual analytics capabilities, the Analytics and Business Intelligence Team (ABI) helps Michigan Medicine units gain new insight from their data. (Formerly known as Fast Analytics, ABI is part of Health Information Technology & Services, HITS).

Kelly Miller, application programmer/analyst with ABI, describes the basics of ABI and Tableau like this: “Imagine you have a pickup truck and a lot of lumber to haul, but you’re not using the bed of the truck at all. What’s more, you don’t know the truck bed is even there. Rather, to move the lumber, you’re cutting it up and stuffing it into the cab. Sure, you could lug the lumber around that way. But it’s more efficient (and easier) to use the truck bed. ABI helps you learn about what’s possible (the truck bed), and how to fit your data (the ‘lumber’) onto that truck bed. The end result is much more useful to you.”

ABI application programmer/analyst Dave Berrie recalls working with many Michigan Medicine units to automate data collection, resulting in lower stress, fewer errors, and a savings of time and money. Tom Cook, another ABI application programmer/analyst, has helped several divisions build informative dashboards that make it much easier to analyze their data. With some training and access to the Tableau Software server, staff can now manage their own dashboards and build new ones.

Whatever their needs, from a nudge in the right direction, to a full-scale consultation and plan of action, ABI will help Michigan Medicine users manage their data to its fullest potential. Here are some of the things you can do with Tableau:

  • Transform Excel spreadsheets into something more visually interactive
  • Eliminate hours of manual labor by automating data pulls
  • Publish data sources and share dashboards

ABI can further help units evaluate their data process and make suggestions for streamlining and efficiency. The group’s senior manager, Jonathan Greenberg, describes ABI’s work as looking at the numbers and working subjectively. “We ask a lot of questions: Could better decisions be made with a different view of the data? Do our customers need data integrated differently? Are we able to eliminate costly spreadsheet wrangling?”

A best practice tip from the team: Join the Google+ U-M Analytics and Business Intelligence Community to network, share information, and develop skills related to analytics, reporting, and business intelligence at U-M. Post questions, comments, tips and tricks—anything that will help you and your colleagues improve your analytic skills and knowledge. ABI project manager Cathie Joynt offers a word of caution, though, explaining that information shared within this Google+ community is public, so everyone should refrain from posting sensitive or personal data.

To learn more, check out the Tableau Starter Kit (you will need your uniqname, level 1/UMICH password, and two-factor authentication), or give ABI a call at 734-232-1676. For more information, contact

Author: D. Stephanie Dascola, Medical School Office of Research

Stephanie is a communications manager at the Medical School Office of Research. Contact her at