January 6, 2020


Moving a legacy organization from conventional ways of doing business to the latest in data-driven business methods requires not only a change in technology but also cultural shifts across the organization.

That was one of the key themes of the discussion led by Brad Donovan, leader of data strategy and operations at Blue Cross Blue Shield NC, [ink to the NC website] at Distilled Data, a November event hosted by WebbMason Analytics and Dataiku at Cloud Brewing in Raleigh, North Carolina.

While everyone enjoyed pizza and beer, Donovan’s presentation took attendees behind the scenes and showed how his organization is changing its traditional business practices to become a modern data-driven enterprise.

Establishing powerful goals

When the company embarked on its advanced analytics journey, it identified two primary goals that were critical to supporting the organization’s mission to improve the health and wellbeing of its members and communities:

  • Balance intuition with data-driven insights to make decisions.
  • Drive value with actionable data and insights.

Converting to a data-driven business is challenging

As with many established organizations, the company’s data was spread across the enterprise, owned by separated functional groups and housed on IT-managed technology that wasn’t integrated with other business systems.

To generate useful insights, this data needed to be brought together into a specialized analytics platform that could ingest information from different sources and systems for cleaning and processing. This required streamlining and upgrading of existing technology and processes across the entire organization.

While implementing the new technology certainly presented difficulties, Donovan said that part was easier than the substantial cultural changes the organization needed to make. 

Hundreds of people across the company needed to learn new ways to do their jobs, and ownership of the data and the processes around its collection and use had to be changed.

Smoothing the way for cultural change

Facilitating change, especially when it touches so many parts of an organization, is a journey that takes time.

Donovan provided some high-level but practical suggestions for smoothing the path to transformation:

  • Creating a compelling vision helps everyone, from leadership down to every employee in the company, to drive in the same direction towards common goals.
  • Building strong relationships with IT is vital as achieving a successful analytic transformation requires collaborative partnerships.
  • Adopting an agile business approach allows you to generate frequent wins that show value. This helps to maintain and stimulate the internal enthusiasm you need for a transformation that may take many years to fully execute.

The informal nature of the event encouraged attendees, who were drawn from a variety of local enterprises, to ask Donovan questions and learn from the challenges the company faced. After the presentation, they had the chance to mingle with members of the Blue Cross NC team and experts from WebbMason Analytics and Dataiku.