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Posted: 4/20/2010
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CareGroup Healthcare System Healthcare Group to Enhance Information Access with Powerful Business Intelligence Tools

CareGroup Healthcare System, which operates hospitals in the Boston area, has been a long-time user of Microsoft SQL Server data management software. CareGroup started testing Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot business intelligence tools that are supported by SQL Server 2008 R2. The tools are expected to help employees analyze huge quantities of data while providing greater control over how information is distributed.

Business Needs

CareGroup Healthcare System is a large healthcare provider in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. It is the parent company of four local hospitals: Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, the New England Baptist Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The latter two are teaching hospitals for Harvard Medical School.

* SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel and PowerPivot for SharePoint will bring a lot more freedom to our information workers because they will have powerful, easy-to-use data analysis tools right on their PCs.  *

Ayad Shammout
Lead Technical Database Administrator
CareGroup Healthcare System

Accessing and understanding information are critical for healthcare organizations, where making decisions can have life or death consequences. Since the late 1990s, CareGroup has stored and managed much of its information on the Microsoft Application Infrastructure, including Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2000 data management software. In 2009, CareGroup began upgrading to SQL Server 2008 to use enhanced enterprise functionality such as advanced data auditing, transparent data encryption, and policy-based management features.

One feature that the organization’s IT administrators still sought was advanced business intelligence (BI) functions, says Ayad Shammout, Lead Technical Database Administrator at CareGroup Healthcare System. “Finding the proper tools to pull data out and deliver it efficiently to users has never been an easy job,” says Shammout. “What we have really needed are tools to provide more self-service BI to end users so they are empowered with more and better information without needing to come to the IT department for help. But we also need to maintain controls over information to protect sensitive data.”


During its upgrade to SQL Server 2008, the IT department began using a beta version of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise. This new release supports rich BI tools, including Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel, a free, downloadable BI technology that lets people work with massive volumes of data—up to hundreds of millions of rows, if needed—in their Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet software. Excel 2010 is part of the Microsoft Office 2010 suites, and CareGroup plans to deploy the Office 2010 software once it is released.

CareGroup also plans to upgrade its intranet from Windows SharePoint Services to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to take advantage of Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft SharePoint. This will mean that CareGroup users can share and collaborate more easily and publish analysis and reports directly on the intranet, with data feeds that regularly update information. They will no longer need to distribute and update spreadsheets manually by using e-mail or public folders.

In late 2009, CareGroup began a pilot of the PowerPivot technologies involving 10 employees. The SQL Server 2008 R2 solution is expected to become available to a broad base of employees by the second half of 2010, and full deployment is scheduled to begin in late 2010.


The BI products supported by SQL Server 2008 R2 are expected to deliver several key benefits to CareGroup end users and its IT staff. The self-service BI functionality will provide powerful capabilities to users’ desktop PCs and ease the workload of IT staff. The BI tools are easy to learn and use because they have the familiar look and feel of the Excel and SharePoint software that employees work with every day. In addition, PowerPivot for SharePoint will provide management functions that will help IT administrators monitor and control content published on the CareGroup intranet.

Powerful BI Tools

The PowerPivot tools will address two challenges at CareGroup: providing a self-service BI model that makes abundant data easily available to employees and reducing the time that the IT department has to spend responding to requests for data analysis. “The biggest benefit of Power Pivot for Excel is how it will give our information workers much more access to CareGroup data,” Shammout says. “They can import and analyze vast quantities of data from disparate sources. They can personalize the information, slice and dice the data, and then produce their own reports for publication on SharePoint Server 2010. And they can do all of this without having to come to the IT department for help. SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel and PowerPivot for SharePoint will bring a lot more freedom to our information workers because they will have powerful, easy-to-use data analysis tools right on their PCs.”

Quick Learning Curve

Shammout anticipates rapid adoption of the PowerPivot products because they simply extend the functionality of familiar business software. He says, “Some years ago, we attempted to get more of our information workers to use standard database analytical tools, but we didn’t get far because of the learning curve. These new BI tools are different.” He notes how easy it is for users to create analysis cubes, use pivot tables and conditional formatting, and perform other functions with the SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel features. “When we demonstrate SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel to our users—how it’s really just an extension of the Excel software they use every day—they see how easy it is to use,” he says. “It doesn’t take more than a few minutes for them to be convinced.”

Carefully Managed Content

By using PowerPivot for SharePoint, CareGroup employees will be able to easily distribute and collaborate on analysis done with SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel. At the same time, the IT department will be able to monitor and control what content is posted to the intranet and who has permissions to view and manipulate data.

“A key point about the new business intelligence capabilities in SQL Server 2008 R2 is that it’s not just self-service BI. It’s managed self-service BI,” Shammout says.

With SharePoint Server 2010, the CareGroup IT staff will be able to track usage of reports, enforce security policies for sensitive information, conduct audits, and monitor network performance when intranet-based analysis is refreshed with new information from CareGroup databases. Shammout says, “With the PowerPivot technology and SharePoint Server 2010, we can balance our employees’ need for rich information and collaboration with the IT department’s need to manage the network environment and the safety and confidentiality of information.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 16000 employees

Organization Profile

CareGroup Healthcare System is the parent company of four Boston-area hospitals, which include teaching hospitals for Harvard Medical School. CareGroup provides IT support and other administrative services for the hospitals.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Excel 2010
  • Microsoft Office 2010 Suites
  • Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel

Vertical Industries

United States

Business Need
  • Business Intelligence and Reporting
  • Data Management

IT Issue
Data Warehousing