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Cal State Adds BI to Cross-Institutional Data Warehouse Project

The California State University system recently deployed Oracle's Business Intelligence (BI) Enterprise Edition on three of its 23 campuses as part of an ambitious cross-institutional project called the "Common Financial System Reporting and Data Warehouse."

Cal State's initiative is intended to deliver reporting and analytic capabilities through a centrally maintained, enterprise-wide financial reporting environment and data warehouse. A goal is also to allow individual campuses to maintain reporting flexibility for their own purposes.

The latest installation combines the BI capabilities with a previous deployment of Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise Financial Management 9.0. The project is expected to last through July 2011. Current deliverables, according to a draft report published by Cal State in May, focus on general ledger data and reporting. Additional capabilities will be rolled out on a quarterly basis, with priorities set by a governance committee made up of representatives from a number of functional areas and institutions.

"Considering the tough economic climate for higher education institutions throughout the country, it is critical for universities to gather business-critical information in a concise and efficient manner to ensure they are making optimal financial decisions," said Jessie Lum, senior director for the common management system in the chancellor's office. "Oracle's solutions will provide CSU with the relevant and timely information it needs to develop effective short and long-term strategies for the university."

Several other institutions are also deploying Oracle systems, including Texas A&M University, Washington State University, and the University of Massachusetts system.

U Massachusetts is using Oracle's BI application in an upgrade of the five-campus institution's human resources system. The deployment will incorporate HR data into executive-style dashboards. The dashboards will pull data from the university's PeopleSoft applications to support areas ranging from grants management to enrollment management. For example, the university's first set of dashboards provides role-based access for research grant data, enabling users such as administrators and principal investigators to track grant spending across the duration of the grant, alerting them if they're tracking over or under budget thresholds.

The enterprise reporting program "provides users at all levels of the university easy access to financial information in a comprehensive format," said Jacqui Watrous, director of administrative systems for administration and finance. "We are creating dashboards that summarize our data, giving administrators the ability to see trends and details that help them efficiently manage operations."

Washington State in Pullman is working with Oracle consultants to update its student data systems. This set of applications, many of which are 30 to 40 years old, maintains basic university functions including admissions, registration, financial aid, student records, and collection of tuition. Replacement of the "crippled" systems is urgent, according to the institution. In August 2009 Web programs that provide several of these student functions failed during registration and were unavailable for four days.

The upgrade project was scheduled to begin in July 2010 with completion slated for October 2012. The project received $15 million in emergency funding from the state legislature.

The new deployment will combine PeopleSoft Enterprise Campus Solutions with Oracle Database Enterprise Edition. The university system will also use Oracle's BI suite and Campus Fusion Intelligence to deliver information about student data via dashboard. Washington State opted to have the new programs hosted by Oracle.

"By using Oracle On Demand to host our student solution, we will be able to minimize risk and maintenance efforts as well as deliver the project on time," said Viji Murali, CIO and vice president for information services.

At Texas A&M, the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) has deployed Oracle software to help track and manage research activities. The installation includes Database 11g and several components of Fusion Middleware, including WebCenter Suite 11g and Universal Content Management. TEES has developed the platform and hosts it in a shared services model for other agencies and institutions within the A&M system.

The software is enabling researchers to customize their individual portals and communicate with internal and external visitors through wikis and blogs. As adoption by researchers continues, TEES will roll out additional social computing tools included in WebCenter, such as workspaces, presence awareness, tagging, and a business networking tool.

"Managing information and research projects across a number of different institutions was becoming a very costly, complex and time consuming process," said Leonarda Horvat, CIO and director of Information Systems at TEES. "To streamline this process and empower our researchers with a more dynamic and flexible user interface, we decided to deploy Oracle [products]. As a result, we have not only simplified information access, but also improved collaboration."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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