Special Annual Awards

2008 Campus Technology Innovators: Business Intelligence

2008 Campus Technology Innovators

TRI-C PROJECT LEAD Jennifer Spielvogel worked to implement a better way to access data quickly and prime it for campus decision-makers.

TECHNOLOGY AREA: BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE
Innovator: Cuyahoga Community College

Via an outstanding centralized campus BI effort, campus administrators and staffers don't just have access to data for improved strategic decision-making; data are pushed to them daily, to actually drive the decision-making process and help them quickly spot and even anticipate students' problems.

At Ohio's Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), a recent effort to revolutionize business intelligence has resulted in a single version of data truth and a single means for understanding student success. The resulting solution, One Institutional Intelligence, was built on new business intelligence technology from Microsoft. So far, at least according to Joe Smucny, the college's vice president of information technology services, the solution has allowed more staffers to have more access to more data more often, resulting in more frequent and better decision-making.

Data weren't always so organized, clean, and readily accessible at Tri-C. Previously, for instance, the daily enrollment management report took one individual anywhere from four to six hours to compile-- a laborious process, to say the least. It was no wonder, then, that in early 2007, project lead Jennifer Spielvogel, VP of institutional planning and effectiveness, turned to representatives from the Dayhuff Group, a local technology solution provider, to help the school implement a better way to access data quickly and prime the data for campus decision-makers.

After viewing the features of competing products from SAS, Business Objects, and Cognos, the team at Cuyahoga opted to go with a multipoint solution from Microsoft. The BI tools, which went live in November, include Microsoft's SQL Server 2005, Integration Services, Analysis Services, Reporting Services, and ProClarity.

With the new system in place, the daily enrollment management report runs automatically in less than 10 minutes, and is pushed directly to the college's 100-member leadership in mere seconds. Report authors and users no longer need to worry about properly coding new/continuing/returning (NCR) status for students in that report; status is calculated nightly and automatically posted in the data warehouse.

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Another benefit is improved problem management. By capturing student registration data every day, the college proactively seeks interventions to help students with challenges such as child care, transportation, and tutoring. In addition, Christina Rouse, business intelligence practice director at Dayhuff Group, says that under the new system, school officials can monitor daily patterns and predict when students are likely to drop courses; they can visit certain course sections and encourage students to stay in classes, troubleshooting to assist them.

"We took best-practice star schema designs and technology adoption from the corporate world and blended these with change management, cultural adoption, and worldclass training ideas from higher education," says Rouse. "Of utmost importance in our solution was the focus on business need and aligning the technology to that need."

Perhaps most impressively, the solution is not just about technology. Cuyahoga utilizes an umbrella program-management structure called the Intelligence Council to establish and manage continual changes in its data warehouse environment. According to Smucny, this council functions as an enterprise change agent and is authorized to protect the college's institutional information assets. It also engages outside expertise in business intelligence and seeks leadership alignment of Tri-C administrative and technical personnel.

In the last few months of the 2007-2008 school year, the college rolled out the BI solution to its Planning and Institutional Research department, which supports every academic and administrative department. Down the road, Tri-C plans to expand use of One Institutional Intelligence to incorporate budget planning data, human resources data, and information about program reviews-- all tweaks that Rouse says should make the institution even more efficient in the years ahead.

"In a time of economic uncertainty and falling enrollment figures in higher education, the ability to generate information to support your enrollment management and recruitment strategies is a major advantage," Rouse says. "The decrease in time to publish reports provides more timely information to executives and their managers, to strengthen their strategic and operational planning processes."

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