Published on 05-Aug-2009
Validated on 17 Feb 2011
"Before we started using IBM Cognos 8 BI, we tended to focus on putting data into the system. Now we are focusing on extracting and analyzing data to improve decisions. Realizing the value of our data and how it can be made available to decision-makers has allowed us to develop useful processes that are already benefiting our students and faculty." - University of Calgary
University of Calgary
In addition to providing a robust, well-established product, the IBM® Cognos® solution had the ease of use the university needed and the capacity to be integrated easily into a non-standard IT environment.
Consolidate complex and confusing data sources into valuable information for decision-makers.
An IBM Cognos 8 BI system that integrates the University’s seven data sources and generates easy-to-understand data for analysis in BI applications and dashboards
Improved decision-making, planning and predictive modeling; optimization of critical links in the University’s Business Operations supply chain; analysis of cost and efficiency metrics to drive business optimization without significant budget increases; automation that supports transaction increase without increasing staffing levels.
Located in northwest Calgary, the University of Calgary (U of C) campus is home to scholars in 16 faculties and 36 research institutes and centers. More than 28,000 students are currently enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs. Over 120,000 alumni have graduated from the U of C in its 40-year history, including the current Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper.
Currently, the U of C is pursuing the biggest single capital expansion in its history. Fueled by Alberta’s nation-leading economic growth, the university has embarked upon a $1.5-billion plan to add capacity for 7,000 more students and a host of new teaching and research activities. Aligning with this plan, the University decided to upgrade to a business intelligence (BI) solution that would allow the administration, finance, and enrolment offices to use reporting dashboards for analytical prediction and activity monitoring.
The University chose IBM Cognos 8 BI to provide reporting and analysis, essentially furthering intelligence and offering more scope from its existing data sources.
As the U of C launched its university-wide initiative to advance learning resources and facilities for its expanding student body, it also looked to its IT department to upgrade its data warehouse tools and move beyond basic queries and reports. Additionally, there was a myriad of data sources, some of which generate non-intuitive production and statistical reports. This complexity was making it difficult for staff to access and understand information.
“We’re always looking for ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness, “ states Harold Esche, Chief Information Officer of the University of Calgary. “We wanted to move from a focus on operational reporting toward reporting and analysis that provides us with better decision-making capabilities.”
To find the best BI tool for its needs, the U of C set key requirements for its ideal solution. Ease of use and integration into its non-standard IT architecture were paramount. The Internet environment at U of C consisted of a new portal, Microsoft® Active Directory®, secure IP and eight standard browsers. The IT department needed a management tool that would complement this configuration. “Integration was a key aspect of the requirements,” recalls Esche.
The University evaluated IBM Cognos and Information Builders products, ultimately settling on IBM Cognos 8 BI for its ability to combine features such as information integration, business intelligence and monitoring.
Starting in April 2005, the U of C deployed an enterprise data warehouse and IBM Cognos 8 BI. In essence, the University’s entire reporting infrastructure was rebuilt on a standardized IBM Cognos platform. Upon the completion of the initial data warehouse and core operational reporting, the University was able to initiate a focused BI project—Supply Chain Intelligence. This project included the integration of seven distinct data sources within the enterprise data warehouse, as well as BI applications and dashboards.
IBM Cognos 8 BI is an integral decision-making hub for the University’s Business Operations team. Business Operations’ strategic vision includes “playing a leadership role on campus to illustrate to the entire campus community the strategic benefits of business intelligence reporting and analysis for business decision-making, planning and predictive modeling.”
“With our initial reporting goals complete, we are now evaluating opportunities to increase the power of our data for our business,” states Brad Knudtson, Director of Operations at the University of Calgary. For example, Business Operations is designing the expansion of its dashboard implementation to put “live” activity-based costing information in front of frontline decision-makers.
“We have optimized, through both automation and process redesign, several critical links in the University’s supply chain to increase the effectiveness of Business Operations. With no significant budget increases in the past ten years, we continually look for efficiencies in our operations so that we can continue to be able to support our growing portfolio of clients,” notes Knudtson.
“With the powerful analysis of cost and efficiency metrics derived from our IBM Cognos toolkit, we have been able to support a 25 percent increase in transactions and a 100 percent increase in total spend without increasing our staffing levels.
Our focus includes seeking out opportunities to automate transactions so that we can refocus our supply chain experts on adding strategic value for our clients. Because of our IBM Cognos 8 BI infrastructure, we have been able to make intelligent and informed business decisions to optimize our business.”
The University’s 626 current users run nearly 500 reports daily from IBM Cognos 8 BI. The typical user is nontechnical, and uses the IBM Cognos system to access standard BI reports for monitoring and tracking their business processes. Over the next 18 months, Tara Mulrooney, Manager of Enterprise Reporting, and her team will begin deploying new dashboards and a growing inventory of standard reports in the University’s extranet environment. Once completed, this will factor in another 800 to 900 IBM Cognos users.
Business Operations actively seeks opportunities to work with Enterprise Reporting to expand its BI tools into other areas. “In 2007 we added work order data from the University’s Operations and Maintenance department to enable strategic business decisions to be based on an end-to-end view of the process, including the supply chain. This reporting was invaluable in getting all stakeholders to focus on root causes and address the critical process inefficiencies,” states Knudtson.
Today, the U of C is beginning discussions to provide financial business intelligence tools that go beyond fundamental budget statements to explain ‘why’. According to Knudtson, “as we roll out more tools to a wider audience, it becomes easier to explain that the model we built in Supply Chain Intelligence is transferable in concept.” He concludes, “Other business units are ready to achieve similar benefits to those Business Operations has realized from IBM Cognos 8 BI.”
Prior to deploying IBM Cognos 8 BI, it used to take the U of C’s Business Operations group almost three weeks to generate a report every month. “Rather than running a series of hundreds of queries against the data warehouse and manipulating the results in a spreadsheet, are now able to focus on report quality—we are no longer data pullers, we are data users,” states Knudtson. Now, 500 reports are run daily at the University, with 30 reports going straight to the Vice Presidents.
“In terms of switching away from standard to newer technologies, we’re doing everything with our IBM Cognos resources from building activity-based costing analytic applications and building batch-printing applications with the IBM Cognos 8 Software Development Kit to integrating invoice scanning into our data warehouse,” states Mulrooney.
As a result, the executive team has increased insight into the University’s operations and can understand the overall processes and functions of the different departments within the school more easily. “This enables more flexibility to make strategic decisions organically, rather than constantly seeking emergency support. For instance, Business Operations has become more fluid in its ability to plan and implement changes because we can now forecast and plan many changes one to three years ahead of the need,” states Knudtson.
Esche sums up his IBM Cognos experience by saying, “Before we started using IBM Cognos 8 BI, we tended to focus on putting data into the system. Now we are focusing on extracting and analyzing data to improve decisions. Realizing the value of our data and how it can be made available to decision-makers has allowed us to develop useful processes that are already benefiting our students and faculty.”
About IBM Cognos BI and Performance Management
IBM Cognos business intelligence (BI) and performance management solutions deliver world-leading enterprise planning, consolidation and BI software, support and services to help companies plan, understand and manage financial and operational performance. IBM Cognos solutions bring together technology, analytical applications, best practices, and a broad network of partners to give customers an open, adaptive and complete performance solution. Over 23,000 customers in more than 135 countries around the world choose IBM Cognos solutions.
For further information or to reach a representative: www.ibm.com/cognos
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Cognos 8 Business Intelligence
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