Highmark Health: Modernizing Data Management on a Central Workbench

Highmark Health modernizes data on the cloud and improves collaboration between teams.

Highmark Health faced many challenges with legacy technology and tooling that did not align with cloud modernization goals. Leveraging Dataiku, the organization is able to both reduce tech stack complexity while modernizing and uniting teams across the enterprise.

Greg Nelson, Vice President of Data Operations at Highmark Health, is responsible for data that comes in and out of the organization, helping to drive this transformation.

A Modern Analytics Tech Stack

According to Greg, the definition of a modern data stack has changed in recent years.

Imagine, for example, even five years ago, when we had to plan for workload consumptions in the cloud, we never would have anticipated the advent of GenAI being able to be such a transformative technology. Greg Nelson Vice President, Data Operations, Highmark Health

With these new changes, Greg highlights the importance of having a central workbench for data projects, whether Generative AI, machine learning, or data management in general.

Ultimately, Greg says a modern analytics stack means a place where people can come together and work collaboratively in partnership with the business and all key stakeholders throughout the data and analytics lifecycle. It also means being able to take advantage of evolving technologies like Generative AI as they emerge so that companies have access to the greatest technology for their use case. It comes down to ease of use, ubiquitous access to data, understanding the provenance and security of data, and being able to profile data and then use it throughout the value stream.

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3 Key Pillars to Transformation

Highmark Health’s decision to choose Dataiku came down to aligning with the three key strategic pillars for cloud modernization. Those included:

  • Scaling and keeping pace with their business strategy, including meeting people where they are and helping them engage more actively with their health through digital therapeutics.
  • Reducing technical complexity, meaning reducing usage of legacy tooling across the organization while focusing on doing more with less in a purposeful, strategic way.
  • Reducing the run and operating expense of their cloud platform, including minimizing risk and improving their ability to reduce the frictions that people found in doing their jobs.
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Making the Move to Dataiku

To meet those three pillars for transformation, Highmark Health sought a solution that would give them a better framework, and a workbench that could bring all actors in the data and analytics lifecycle together to solve problems collaboratively. With the help of partner Aimpoint Digital, the organization is deploying Dataiku on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to centralize teams and data workflows into a single workbench as part of their path to creating a modern analytics tech stack.

The need was really around what I'll call last mile data engineering. It wasn't actually an analytics use case. It was how we were going to enable people who may not be technical to do their last mile data engineering activities. So legacy SAS, Alteryx, and Excel users. How do we actually enable them to do their work in a governed, transparent cloud-enabled platform? Greg Nelson Vice President, Data Operations, Highmark Health
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Greg found that Dataiku was really one of the only tools on the market that truly acted as that unified workbench. When it comes to data and analytics, demand will always exceed the capacity, and the only way to change that is to stop trying to play the game of “project factory”, but rather enable an entire global workforce to be actors in that process by engaging on a platform that allows people to operate in their skillset. 

According to Greg, Dataiku is “a combination of low code plus deep code plus model development and model production organization all in a common platform that connects business users to technology users.”

Change Management: A Woodworker’s Perspective

One of the greater challenges of changing technology is change management. Greg’s perspective is that problems that users face when changing analytics tools have parallels in woodworking. In your own workshop, you know where everything is located, and feel confident you have the tools and competence to create a great product. When you’re asked to work in someone else’s workshop, you might not have the tools you’re familiar with or even know where they’re located which means you don’t have confidence in yourself to achieve what you know you’re capable of. 

We've got to equip people and recognize that change is not an organizational phenomenon or problem, it's an individual problem. And so if we can engage people where they are and understand what their fears are, what the challenges are and start to make sure that we outline the guardrails and guides or constructions, the tooling, the education, the enablement to help them get there. Greg Nelson Vice President, Data Operations, Highmark Health
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