Sifting through Data

Recent upgrades to the University’s electronic data warehouse have created a more unified view of University information and established a more robust, secure repository for this data.

“University IT has sought to bring various sources of historical information together into one repository for ease of reporting,” said Jeff Meteyer, Data Warehouse Manager.  “The data warehouse is the ‘hub’ where this information resides for analysis and reporting.”

Last month, University IT migrated the last set of data from its 19-year-old legacy reporting system, which will be decommissioned in late spring. The new system is more efficient and provides a range of tools to improve reporting.

The introduction of electronic report distribution in areas such as payroll listing, ledgers, and research grants has accelerated finance reporting capabilities by making information available to users within minutes of fiscal month closing rather than weeks.  And with the addition of a new tool, users can now view, save, and print scanned images of transactions instantly.  This used to be a laborious manual process that could take two to three weeks to complete.

There have been significant changes to the data warehouse for student information over the past year.  The number of users has doubled to 1300, and three data marts have been added for salary, accounts payable, and Meliora Weekend information.  Many of the data marts have been improved to daily feeds, instead of monthly feeds, allowing users to address issues more quickly.

Visualization of Advancement data
New visualization tools help users discern patterns in the data they retrieve from the data warehouse. One such tool for Advancement can depict the number of donors and favored areas of giving by city.

Also introduced in 2011, Meteyer noted, are “new visualization tools that allow users to display data in various outputs and help people make connections or see through the mass of data to spot trends or areas of focus.”  For instance, one new data visualization tool assists Advancement leadership in graphically interpreting data trends and easily presenting meaningful information to constituents.

“The addition of new database and analytical tools to our reporting suite significantly enhances Advancement’s ability to analyze data…for the [Meliora Challenge] campaign,” said Joseph Meister, Associate Vice President for Advancement Services.

To accommodate the growth in the number of users and the tools available to them, University IT has conducted 75 training sessions over the past year, covering everything from an introduction to the system to advanced report writing.

The new system has been upgraded twice since February 2010.  The latest upgrade allows system administrators to better evaluate its use so they can optimize the most heavily used report elements and eliminate those that are no longer used.  Such evaluations will keep the system efficient and sustainable.

University IT is already planning for further improvements.  According to Meteyer, “What the team is looking to do next is provide integration across data sets to allow more complex questions to be answered—questions that mingle finance and grant management information, or student and financial aid reconciliation processes.”  The ability to securely view data on mobile devices is also in progress.