Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Turns to Oracle BI for Decision-making

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute said it is using Oracle business intelligence applications to help users define, analyze and interpret data stored in its Oracle data warehouse. Rensselaer has created dashboards that deliver data to 650 users for planning, forecasting and decision-making.

A research institution with campuses in Troy, NY and Hartford, CT, Rensselaer previously used a paper-based system, which produced inaccuracies in data and often resulted in duplicative efforts, according to the school. Also, various departments couldn't agree on basic definitions, such as what was considered a full-time student, leading to inaccuracies when comparing data between departments.

Rensselaer built a data warehouse on Oracle Database, which required cleansing and unifying data across the institution and storing it in one location. Over time, the school developed business intelligence dashboards in a number of critical areas to provide users with real-time, role-based access to data from the 130 GB data warehouse.

"Our data warehouse and business intelligence project is unique because of its scope," said Ora Fish, acting director, Integrated Administrative Computing Services. "Our entire culture is evolving from crunching numbers to measuring performance and asking, 'What does this data mean to us, now and in the future?'"

Rensselaer's dashboards provide users with data on current and past years, enabling them to view high-level information and drill down into specific data points. Dashboards include:
  • Admissions, which provides information on applicant demographics and statistics, enabling users to analyze trends such as admissions quality and selectivity, student retention rates and inquiry-to-application rates.
  • Student registration, which provides information on enrollment, courses and grades, allowing the university to examine classroom capacities and teaching loads.
  • Financial aid, which monitors student financial aid, indicating type, duration, source and amount of assistance for each student and providing university-wide figures.
  • Financials, which compares actual performance to budgets, providing users from all departments with daily insight into remaining budget. This dashboard also displays a breakdown of labor expenses, especially helpful for work performed against research grants where the project lead needs to track administrative vs. teaching labor expenses.
  • Human resources, which displays data about faculty and staff, helping the university track trends such as diversity, turnover rates and workforce aging.
  • Research, which presents data on research income, expenditures, yields and cost sharing by sponsoring agencies, disciplines, schools and departments.
  • Advancement, which provides staff with insight into which alumni are donating and how much, as well as tracking specific campaign totals.
  • Compliance, which monitors compliance against internal processes and identifies instances where an administrator needs to correct errors before distributing suspicious data.
With the dashboards in place, Rensselaer now has begun to analyze its data vs. internal and external benchmarks and key performance indicators (KPIs). This benchmarking is intended to help the institution improve decision-making and forecasting. For example, the admissions department can create a report that compares Rensselaer's diversity statistics with peer institutions' data or displays the rate of inquiry-to-application over the last five years.

Rensselaer selected Oracle for its data warehouse and business intelligence project through an evaluation process involving 20 staff members from various university departments.
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