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Industry Leaders’ Advice on Using BI Tools Effectively

University Business, Nov 2011

Institutions should invest as much effort in “getting to their data” as they do in choosing and installing a business intelligence tool, says Daryl Orts, vice president of engineering technologies at Noetix.

“Good data models are essential, whether you’re doing real-time operational reporting, building a data warehouse, or both,” Orts relates.

But BI tools are not enough on their own to solve the problems of access to data and decision making. While no one would argue that institutions have a wealth of data, many struggle with turning that data into meaningful information to impact performance. “Institutions need to first turn raw data into actionable information so BI tools can be effective,” says Jim Hermens, general manager for Blackboard Analytics.

Scott Cupach, senior strategic consultant, SunGard Higher Education, suggests choosing a BI tool with end user ease-of-use top-of-mind. “The majority of decision makers managing the resources of the university do not work in IT,” he says. “If it is not easy for them to use, they will not get the information they need for decision making.”

Intelliworks CEO Todd Gibby agrees. “Having the ability to measure anything and everything under the sun can sometimes lead to analysis paralysis,” he relates. “Know what your key performance indicators are before you set out to measure them and concentrate on those areas first.”

Cupach also suggests that higher ed leaders implement a BI maturity timeline. “You want your organization to mature from one that just runs and uses reports, to one that leverages dashboards and scorecards, begins to run multi-dimensional analysis, predictive modeling, continuing through to a mature, performance management-driven organization that uses information as an asset.”

Ample training and support from the top are critical to BI success in higher ed, says Emily Baranello, sales director of SAS Education Practice. “The most successful BI implementations, both short and long-term, have been in organizations that have been dedicated to training their employees to enable self-sufficiency with the new technology.”