Not only did the Microsoft BI stack save money by utilizing existing assets – SQL Server, Excel and SharePoint – it also leverages existing skillsets within CIT’s IT department to keep it up and running
Cork Institute Of Technology uses
Microsoft BI stack and OpenSky Analytics
Services for better decision-making
The Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) provides the full range of higher education qualifications and a well-developed structure that enables students to progress through the different levels. With multiple faculties focused on delivering the best possible learning experience for its students, the Institute understands the value of data analytics and had already invested in the Microsoft SQL Server Business Intelligence (BI) platform.
The IT department had built a data warehouse that was reliable and well structured, but access was a problem. Users needed skills in the Microsoft Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) interface to make sense of disparate Excel spreadsheets. This was not ideal for faculty members who wanted information more quickly. They had to rely on an IT department that was tasked with generating reports when there were more mission critical jobs to be done. The existing solution was inefficient for everyone.
Because the Institute had already invested in Microsoft SharePoint as well as Microsoft SQL Server, it had the foundation for an Enterprise Reporting Portal. SharePoint is Microsoft’s collaboration and intranet platform that also provides the presentation layer for the Microsoft BI stack.
What was needed was the expertise to execute the build. Microsoft Gold Partner OpenSky had been involved in numerous deployments of the Microsoft BI stack and its skills proved integral to the success of the project.
OpenSky began by upgrading CIT to SharePoint 2013 with Power View, an interactive data exploration, visualisation, and presentation tool that is intuitive to use and encourages ad-hoc reporting. In the longer term, these on-premise upgrades would future-proof the stack and facilitate easier integration with cloud services from Microsoft, part of the Institute’s longer-term roadmap.
The initial focus of the project was in the Engineering and Science faculty, surfacing student retention data in a new dashboard using Power View. Having developed the capability, it was subsequently rolled out to each department head, enabling them to “slice and dice” the data they needed. The service was then extended to include reports for course monitoring from a quality assurance perspective.
Next, the SharePoint portal was opened out to administration staff for creating custom reports around the student record system. A growing band of users now extends across admissions, fees, course co-ordinators, lecturers and IT services.
CIT has achieved its goals with the deployment of the BI SharePoint portal, making valuable data more accessible to all faculty and administration staff while relieving the IT department of the burden of generating reports with higher than expected adoption rates within the Institute, according to McCarthy.
To try and make information available on a much broader scale, we started a project to create an enterprise reporting portal that could be accessed initially by all senior management in one faculty, but eventually by all CIT staff who required information to make decisions. Our mission with this project was to get the right information to the right people at the right time. Everyone is accessing the same consistent source of data and doing what they need with it.
We are seeing a big appetite for self-service and even end user Microsoft BI at the moment, we go in and hide the complexity from end users, replacing unwieldy spreadsheets and disparate reporting systems with intuitive dashboards that make easy work of accessing reports.