Magazine Article | September 1, 2002

Less (Paper) Is More

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Timely data, online reporting, and a 1.2 million decrease in paper documents per month are just a few of the benefits an ERM (enterprise report management) solution can offer you.

Integrated Solutions, September 2002

Is assembling reporting packets the best use of your staff's time? Are the manual reports you get in your sort module more than three weeks outdated? If you answered "yes" to these questions, you're not alone. In fact, there was a time when the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) (Pittsburgh) Health System, a healthcare provider with more than 35,000 employees, was in the same predicament. How it resolved these problems can be a model for you.

Five Million Pages Of Outdated Reports
Previously, UPMC generated thousands of reports among its human resources (HR), financials, patient billing, physician performance, and other applications. Because its data resided in various applications running on disparate operating systems, which include Windows NT, MPE, OS/390, UNIX, Sun Solaris, and OpenVMS, UPMC had to manually generate reports from each of its applications. This process entailed several of the 400 satellite offices printing reports and mailing the reports to the corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh. From there, 11 clerks from the accounting department would begin the arduous task of manually merging reports, stapling, and mailing them to the appropriate managers and administrators. With 1,200 employees receiving one or more of the thousands of reports generated each month, UPMC's total report pages produced each month was about 5 million. To make matters worse, the reports were about 20 days outdated by the time they reached the desks of their intended recipients. "If, for instance, a manager receives information related to the financial status of a cost center 20 days late, the situation may have changed dramatically - for the better or worse - in that time frame," says Jeff Szymanski, associate director, Data Center Operations at UPMC. "Besides being tardy, the reports took a total of 176 hours to assemble, staple, and mail." And, when you consider the costs of mailing, it boosts the expenses of manually generating the reports even further.

One Application, One Reporting Solution
The healthcare provider researched several reporting solutions, but only found Quest Software's (Irvine, CA) Vista Plus met all of its criteria. "The Vista Plus had the option of viewing reports from the desktop or from the Web, it was scalable and offered many reporting features, and it accepted data from any platform," recalls Szymanski. Initially, UPMC did a trial run of the reporting software on its legacy PeopleSoft financial system. Besides a small glitch that required the IT staff to figure out a way to properly handle postscript fonts, the implementation went smoothly. " For applications that use a Sun Solaris operating system, for instance, we had to install a remote print que to the Vista server, which would allow the data from the native application to be pulled directly to the Quest server," says Szymanski. "This small modification enabled us to transfer reports in five minutes versus two hours."

After rolling out the solution to its PeopleSoft financial system, UPMC realized positive results. "The first phase of the reporting solution rollout reduced the volume of our paper reports by more than 350,000," says Szymanski. Besides providing up-to-date information, the new solution offered a few other benefits as well. "For the first time, we were able to realize the full potential of our reports," says Szymanski. For instance, managers receive performance review statuses twice a month detailing who is due for a performance review, which employee is late for his review, and how close the manager is to the target range of merit increases for his department. By using the automated report management solution, managers can evaluate their subordinates as well as their own performance more easily.

Another benefit UPMC users and administrators enjoy is greater page security. With the legacy reporting features it was difficult, if not impossible, to tailor reports for certain managers. With the Vista Plus, however, report security is built-in down to the individual page level. So, if manager A's subordinates' payroll information is on page 1 of the report and manager B's is on page 2, the managers will see only the page of the report that corresponds to their area of responsibility.

Many Applications, One Reporting Solution
After a successful first phase of its enterprise reporting rollout, UPMC extended its reporting functionality to other applications. As of January 2002, the healthcare provider is 60% finished with a total enterprise deployment of its ERM (enterprise report management) system. After its most recent rollout of the solution to its patient admitting/billing system in May 2002, UPMC reported it has dropped its total print volume by 1.2 million pages a month.

Besides continuing to roll out the solution to more of its enterprise applications, UPMC is considering adding one other feature, known as an output management solution, to its reporting solution in the future. This feature will enable the healthcare provider to address the issue of managing print output to remote printers with the ability to integrate with Vista Plus.