Cork Institute Of Technology uses
Microsoft BI stack and OpenSky Analytics
Services for better decision-making

Business Situation

Organisation

Cork Institute of Technology

Customer Profile

Third-level institution that offers wide ranging courses for further education.

Industry

Education

Business Situation

An existing Microsoft data warehouse solution was strong on gathering Business Intelligence but less effective at distributing it.

Solution Description

By upgrading to the full Microsoft BI stack with a self-service portal, CIT is now able to make the right data available to the right people at the right time.

Benefits

All faculty and administration staff can now compile reports that better inform their decision-making, driving continuous improvement across the Institute.

Description

By upgrading to the full Microsoft BI stack with a self-service portal, CIT is now able to make the right data available to the right people at the right time.

Country / Region

Ireland

Situation

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.

Key Solutions

Microsoft
Solutions:

– SQL Server

– SharePoint 2013

– Excel

– Power View

Key OpenSky
Solutions:

– BI Strategy Consulting

– Solution Architecture Design

– Solution Development

– BI Training for Self Service Reporting

Solution

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.

Benefits

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.

  • Maximising Existing Tasks
    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
  • Familiar Interface
    Microsoft applications and web pages that are used in the BI solution are familiar and intuitive to CIT users, minimising the need for training and increasing the rate of adoption
  • Repeatable Reports
    Thanks to the IT department populating the SharePoint portal with templates for repeatable reports, more users can dig down into the information they need more quickly
  • Self-service & Accessible
    The Microsoft BI stack has democratised data and made it accessible to users across the college through intuitive dashboards and self-service tools
  • Governance & Security
    The solution is structured in such a way that each user group can only access their own reports. It is a controlled environment that distributes BI across CIT without compromising confidential information
  • Increasing organisational intelligence
    With more people creating reports more easily, there is a greater appreciation of BI and the role it can play in building a smarter organisation

Testimonials

Cork Institute Of Technology

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.

Jonathan McCarthy – Head of IT Department at Cork Institute of Technology

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.

William Flanagan – Director Commercial & Technology at OpenSky Data Systems

Summary

The people at the frontline of the new service offer a compelling insight into how transformational putting data into the hands of end users can be. Michael Loftus, Head of Faculty of Engineering and Science – the first faculty to “go live” with the solution – is an enthusiastic champion of the project.

“The portal is helping us provide rich information to our faculty management team in a timely, consistent and interactive manner. Ultimately, this is enabling us to understand the student experience in detail and create a platform for maximising student achievement and retention by identifying previously unseen opportunities for continuous improvement,” he said. “It will become even more important over time as it is used to integrate wider data sets and support cross-process decision-making and predicting outcomes.”

Jonathan McCarthy identified a more immediate impact. “We are seeing an increased interest in data, the value of data, the quality of data and the importance of data. Our users are asking for more information and this is a really good thing,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of the project’s success is the strength of the partnership forged between Microsoft, opensky and CIT. “We look forward to working with OpenSky on the next steps in our BI roadmap, including SharePoint enhancements,” said McCarthy.

Our Success

Cork City Council

An Bord Pleanála

DLR Country Council

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