Optum: Speaking the Language of Data Analytics

Business Challenge

Equipping the Next Generation of Data Scientists

From small businesses to Fortune 500, companies have access to more data than ever before. It's what organizations choose to learn from that data that will separate them from the competition.

As a part of UnitedHealth Group, Optum works to "modernize the health system's infrastructure, advance care and empower individuals as they take control of their own health." Optum recognized that leveraging their data against their deep knowledge of the healthcare system would help them better meet customer needs, and give them an edge against competitors. To this end, Optum developed the Data Science University, and internal program with three branches. The first branch is designed to streamline onboarding and help familiarize new employees with the healthcare field. The second branch is a "retooling of existing talent," designed to advance the skills of their data scientists and propel the field of data science forward.

The third branch was intended for senior managers and directors, as a way to deliver executive-level content to leaders in a cohesive and efficient way. To accomplish this third branch, Optum Vice President and Dean of Data Science University Marc Paradis turned to Carlson Executive Education.



A Common Understanding

Carlson's "proven model" of expertise in analytics drew Optum to work with Executive Education as their university partner. Professors Ravi Bapna and Gedas Adomavicius co-developed a program that blended their analytics prowess with Optum case studies, making the content uniquely relevant to Optum.

Paradis considers the business an ecosystem. In order to facilitate that ecosystem, "[Everyone needs] to be speaking the same language and aligned around the same goals." Having so many leaders learning together facilitated an important level-set within Optum, and a foundation to build upon.

The same concept applied to the co-creation process between Carlson and the Data Science University: "As we went through the first course that is where the partnership really grew. We stepped back and we learned from the people that participated and the feedback that they got and we continued to refine. That element is not something you're going to get from every university or every partner. You're going to get an out-of the-box course and that's not what we were looking for."



A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Executives emerged from the program able to have more informed conversations about data analytics. Critically, they are also starting to think differently about their business and where data analytics fit in.

Optum is taking the long view on building their capabilities: "We don't look at it as a sprint, it's more of a marathon...If you're trying to transform your business, that's not going to happen the day after you go through this course, but we have a more focused understanding and investment."

It's the first step down an important path into the power of data analytics, and Optum's leadership is really excited by what they've seen. Says Paradis, "An enormous portion of the value is in speaking the same language. [Speaking the same language] is accelerating our projects tremendously and is allowing us to be much more efficient and much more effective."

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