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February 18, 2020 | Tom Ballard

PYA’s BI service line taking an industry agnostic approach to client needs

“If you know you have a challenge, even if you cannot fully articulate it, invite us into the conversation,” says David McMillan, Managing Principal of Consulting Services at PYA, the power behind

The 36-year old firm is the largest professional services practice headquartered in Knoxville in addition to being ranked in the top 100 among accounting firms nationally and number 13 among those in healthcare. Because of the needs of its diverse set of clients, PYA is taking an aggressive approach to growing its Business Intelligence (BI) services under McMillan’s leadership.

“We are taking an industry agnostic approach with this initiative,” he explains, citing the famous Wayne Gretzky quote about skating to where the puck is going, not where it is.

“Years ago, companies hired people with expertise in specific software like Word, Power Point and Excel,” McMillan noted. “Today, all graduates, and most high schoolers, are proficient in the use of that software; they are akin to table stakes. BI as we know it today is on the frontend of that same curve. In the future, everyone will be using BI tools with regularity, a part of their daily routine. As more and more data is available for consumption, only the most complex BI challenges will be reserved for the experts.”

It is that latter space where PYA will be focusing, providing a service that will empower business executives to make more intelligent decisions.

“Today, businesses spend significant effort and resources gathering data from disparate sources, attempting to normalize that data, before they can even begin trying to analyze it,” McMillan explains. “The accumulation and normalization of data, as well as repetitive (and many manual) processes, will become automated in the future.”

What does that mean for decision makers?

“Rather than simply help you answer the questions you explicitly ask, contemporary BI software programs now infer the questions you should be asking, bring attention to correlations not yet considered, and suggest wholly unique solutions to challenges not yet identified.” McMillan says. “It will become a necessary extension of future decision making, not just a high tech tool for a select few.”

He provides a great analogy of the impact that BI can have on a business, explaining that “BI, when working properly, is like the transformation that occurs when many musicians playing different instruments all begin playing from the same score, led by a capable conductor.  What was once an unintelligible cacophony of noise becomes a beautifully integrated orchestra.” The point is obvious. When everyone is playing off the same sheet of music, great things happen.

As PYA grows its BI service line, McMillian says the firm not only wants to help its existing and future clients, but also use BI to improve PYA’s delivery of its own services.

“We have a desire to be a practical solution in this space,” he adds. “We want to customize solutions that meet our clients’ needs. We will help them at a scale that they need.  That same approach applies to our internal clients as well.  We are using the contemporary BI approaches to develop new and innovative project tools, processes and outcomes within our firm’s professional services team.”

Jason Hardin, a Consulting Senior Manager who has been with PYA 10 years, manages the BI service line. In explaining how he approaches any BI project, Hardin says simply, “If they (the client) don’t have the data or understand it, they are making blind decisions.”

To illustrate the point, he cited a recent healthcare example where a hospital client wanted to explore changing the patient mix at one facility and possibly expanding to and building in a market where it did not have an existing facility. What were the pros and cons? How would these changes impact the bottom line? What’s the correct decision?

“We integrated and analyzed claims from a statewide database in conjunction with the hospital’s internal reimbursement and cost accounting detail to determine the impact,” Hardin explained, noting the same sort of approach would be taken for a non-healthcare client such as an automotive supplier that might be exploring taking on a new contract or expanding its manufacturing footprint.

Another area where PYA has provided help for clients involves proposed new regulations from federal, state or even local government entities. This is always a concern for any business sector. PYA’s BI team approaches these engagements by using client data, mining national datasets, creating proprietary algorithms, and relying upon the firm’s experience working in all 50 states to make informative recommendations.

Dashboards are also a tool that more and more enterprises are using to better understand their costs and how to manage them going forward, based on factors such as reimbursement rates if you are a hospital or contracts with an original equipment manufacturer if you are somewhere in its supply chain.

“Data is the new currency,” Hardin explains. “If your organization is not fully utilizing the capabilities of your data, you are likely missing out on opportunities.”

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