Public Safety Agencies Leave Excel Behind for Embedded Analytics

A group of Utility Workers working on installing new telephone poles.

Not too long ago I was surprised to read that a major Baltimore utility uses plain old spreadsheets to handle its disaster response. Advances in cloud computing and analytics platforms make that sound pretty dated.

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, government agencies put a major emphasis on deploying the best technology to prevent future disasters from being the cause of so much tragedy. So to read in a New York Times report that the senior emergency preparedness administrator at Baltimore Gas & Electric say he’s using Excel spreadsheets and writing commands to extract data almost seems like ancient technology.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Excel. Many people swear by it. But determining staffing needs with it when hurricanes threaten the coast fails to take advantage of much better solutions.

It makes sense to analyze staffing needs within the utility’s staffing application. When you need to pull data out of the application and import it into a spreadsheet you’ve put major speed bumps in your workflow. Needless to say, this process kills any notion of real-time analytics. In a developing emergency situation, real-time data becomes critical. Separating the process adds another level of complexity to collaboration.

Already it seems we’ve created two big obstacles in a time when quick decisions are particularly critical. The workflow became truncated and disjointed, while any collaboration tools remain split from the analytics process.

With word of malware on a laptop used by a Vermont utility and regular reports of hacking attempts, I can’t help but note how insecure a spreadsheet created during an incident most likely will be. Sharing data put into that spreadsheet seems like a security risk a modern utility company won’t want to take. Non-public information has a bad habit of appearing in these spreadsheets, which is a privacy and compliance risk.

A better approach would be to embed analytics inside staffing or collaboration software in this example.

With a modern, self-service, embedded BI and analytics platform, the utility’s staff could build and maintain dashboards to manage a rapidly evolving crisis. An emergency preparedness team can set up alerts to let them know when wind gusts increase, temperatures drop below (or above) a set level or any of the myriad of other important pieces of data needed to make proper responses to a disaster. These reports, dashboards and alerts don’t need to be recreated for each emergency. By embedding analytics within the core application, all data becomes available within the workflow to analyze, develop insights and establish best practices.

That’s quite a bit different than the utility in Maryland, whose emergency staffing depends upon the manual collection and import of data from multiple sources into a spreadsheet. Using an embedded platform instead would enable the utility to make these data connections a permanent piece of the organization’s workflow. This would let them do a better job of making sure they had the right data and could access it in real time. The ability to schedule and share reports could only improve collaboration during a crisis – and in day-to-day business.

Other government organizations make use of modern analytics solutions to benefit from real-time data so analysis can be made when they need to make decisions.

Government Agencies Choose To Embed Analytics

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) needed to understand what incidents happened when and where on the grounds of the state’s 63 parks. Without this data and analysis, they could not identify security staffing needs. They kept the information in separate locations, making analysis more difficult. By embedding an analytics platform within their core application, the DNR put data into the hands of the users who needed to make the decisions. Data from every incident report became available at the point of decision so security staffing was directed to the locations where it was needed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services (CSELS) chose to embed a self-service analytics platform to keep tabs on the grants and other funding it made. By embedding it within the application staff uses every day, the agency can keep track of the process to make sure grants are made for the amount they should, get sent to the right outside agencies when they are scheduled.

Embedded BI Aids Allocation of Resources in Emergencies

An embedded BI solution integrated by emsCharts enables air and ground emergency medical service companies to better allocate and manage resources so they know how to prepare to provide optimal care. The analytics solution enables users in the air medical and ground emergency medical services industry to identify trends such as the rate of people suffering chest pains or drug overdoses in a community in a few seconds with data visualizations. Pete Goutmann, President/CTO for emsCharts, said this kind of insight was more difficult to produce before embedding analytics. When trend reports were generated, they were not always timely.

Embedded analytics empowers end users – EMTs, paramedics, nurses, EMS agencies, hospitals, regions, and states – to easily create and manage reports, visualizations, and dashboards. emsCharts is used to ensure patient safety and proper medical protocol use by evaluating data entered into medical records and drilling down through clinical data. The data provides feedback to ambulance crews on the care provided, which leads to improved care. It also allows emergency medical services to improve bottom line results by leveraging analytics to assess revenue per ambulance.

Orion Communications embedded analytics into its AgencyWeb® application for public safety command staff to easily access, analyze, and report on operational data regarding their workforce resources – from administrative requirements to emergency calls, events, units and more.

The seamless integration of self-service BI into the workflow of AgencyWeb gives in-context analytics to the end users who need it to make real-time decisions. By inheriting Orion’s security model, the embedded analytics solution assures compliance with all state and federal regulations.

Jackie Belasky, Director of Sales and Marketing for Orion Communications, said combining self-service analytics with Orion’s software enables public safety leaders to rely on data-driven analytics to gain insight into resource planning, productivity and governmental compliance.

Izenda Embeds Self-Service Analytics for Immediate Insight

The ability of software product teams to integrate Izenda’s self-service analytics at the point of decision eliminates the security and performance concerns presented by spreadsheets.

Software companies embedding self-service BI and analytics into core business application workflows reveal data in real time for analysis. End users can make better business decisions by using the application’s analytics. That gives them insight at the point of decision.

Our customers confirm that embedding BI into their core applications generates many benefits. For the software company, an embedded analytics platform can speed deployment of improved self-service analytics in the core application.

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