Published on 13-Aug-2009
Validated on 17 Feb 2011
"Historically, we’ve had a whole lot of data, and that tends to get siloed in one database or another, so having the IBM Cognos solution lets us combine those data sources very easily without a lot of programming. That’s a huge benefit." - Rick Goldgar, CTO, Texas Education Agency
Texas Education Agency
After evaluating several products, Texas Education Agency chose the IBM® Cognos® solution because it fared better than competitors on a wide range of test criteria, including technical capabilities, flexibility and cost.
Create data confidence throughout a leading state education agency and provide broad information access for public and private inquiries.
The IBM Cognos 8 BI system provides a streamlined approach for Texas Education Agency that enables the public and education officials to have widespread, real-time access to scores of different student, district and school data sources from a single porta.
Ability to pull data out of its data warehouse and proprietary systems efficiently; instant access to reports that used to take painstaking hours to create; increased accountability; integration with homegrown security system; reporting without programming or coding; report bursting.
The mission of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is to provide leadership, guidance and resources to help the state’s public schools meet the educational needs of all students. The TEA, which comprises the commissioner of education and agency staff, is the administrative unit for primary and secondary public education covering kindergarten through 12th Grade, and adult education. TEA and the State Board of Education guide and monitor activities and programs related to public education in Texas.
Austin, Texas-based TEA, supported by both state and federal funds, is focused on continuous improvement in executing policy, achieving results and satisfying the needs of all customers and stakeholders. TEA is committed to adding value by leading and supporting a dynamic partnership with students, families, educators, communities, businesses, government officials and policy leaders. Under the leadership of the commissioner of education, TEA:
• Manages the textbook adoption process
• Oversees development of the state-wide curriculum
• Administers the state-wide assessment program
• Administers a data collection system for public school student, staff, and finance data
• Rates school districts under the state-wide accountability system
• Operates research and information programs
• Monitors for compliance with federal guidelines
• Serves as a fiscal agent for the distribution of state and federal funds.
As a high-profile government agency that is closely followed by other similar agencies across the country, TEA needed to stay agile in providing a huge variety of different types of data – financial, student and staffing data – to education administrators and the public. As a public entity accountable to students, parents and citizens, TEA’s majority of users are non-technical and required an easy-to-deploy business intelligence (BI) solution with a straightforward user interface that could produce reports on demand. To say TEA needed more complex reporting capabilities would be an understatement: a core part of its mission is to maintain and analyze data on 4.6 million students enrolled in the state’s schools.
“We gather data on every student, every class and every district. And we do a lot of reporting on that data,” said Rick Goldgar, CTO at TEA.
In choosing a BI solution, TEA’s IT department had to walk a tightrope between making large amounts of data available to anonymous public users (without forcing them to have passwords and user names) and keeping more sensitive data secure from hackers. Thus, TEA needed a highly customizable solution that was secure and capable of generating complex reports in an easily readable manner. The goal was to implement a solution that would interact seamlessly with multiple data sources and allow for future expansion.
TEA needed to provide the latest data to vastly different constituencies ranging from teachers to members of the public – whether it was student, school or district data. Everything from demographics to teacher salaries and class sizes needed to be made public, whenever users requested the data.
In 2007, under a legislative initiative to upgrade its reporting capabilities and make more data accessible in real-time, TEA chose to implement a BI solution. As part of its due diligence, TEA carefully evaluated ten solutions and then pared down its choices to IBM Cognos, Information Builders and SAP Business Objects solutions. After intense technical and financial reviews, TEA chose the IBM Cognos system because it fared better than the others on a wide range of tests, including technical capabilities, flexibility and cost.
“Historically, we’ve had a whole lot of data, and that tends to get siloed in one database or another, so having the IBM Cognos solution lets us combine those data sources very easily without a lot of programming,” Goldgar says. “That’s a huge benefit.”
The goal at the outset was to have IT create an infrastructure so users could build their own reports. Several IBM Cognos training classes took place to review what data was being used. TEA brought users up to speed quickly by conducting well-attended demo sessions so prospective users could see the system’s vast reporting capabilities firsthand. Thus, IT empowered the agency users to run whatever reports they wanted, without requiring IT assistance.
“Then, after we showed them how to do it efficiently, the users had the power in their own hands to do what they want with it,” Goldgar adds.
The initial implementation involved employees and data within finance at TEA, which manages and directs a budget of more than $17 billion per year. Since the implementation in 2007, more than 40 users are writing reports and on some days, approximately one-half million people are accessing data built by IBM Cognos reports, including policymakers, researchers and school administrators from Texas and other parts of the country. Due to the high visibility of the No Child Left Behind Act, TEA’s data is closely observed by many interested parties.
Once IBM Cognos 8 BI was up and running, users instantly saw its value on many fronts. Those accessing reports were able to see a myriad of different historic data in a single report; no coding was required. And there is now one place they can go to create an unlimited amount of reports at the drop of a hat.
“One of the things we’ve found really nice is that once we’ve put together the structure for users, they don’t have to be programmers or learn some arcane set of rules to be able to use it,” Goldgar says. “They can manipulate the data as much as they want to get what they need.”
TEA’s use of IBM Cognos 8 BI has streamlined everything from reporting on demographics to new mandates. For example, one recently passed state-wide initiative on physical fitness – wherein schools are now required to make students’ fitness data public – meant TEA had to report on data collected on obesity. Thanks to the IBM Cognos solution, a dashboard was built quickly so that data across the whole state and down to the school level could be analyzed. Administrators can also see how any specific school or district compared with others across the state. The governor’s office regularly sees data from these reports, including reports that highlight academic ratings for every campus that are published annually.
The success has spawned several expanded uses. IBM Cognos 8 BI has been chosen as the standard reporting tool for TEA. Further expansion in the near future may be driven by pending state legislation that would change how data is correlated, and grants focusing on best practices.
“We found that the IBM Cognos system can easily fulfill not only low-end needs and but also our high-end needs, both with one solution,” Goldgar says. “That’s a big thing for us because the cost of these tools is always a factor.”
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.
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Cognos 8 Business Intelligence
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2009 IBM Canada3755 Riverside DriveOttawa, ON, Canada K1G 4K9 Produced in CanadaJuly 2009 All Rights Reserved . IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com and Cognos are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at www.ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. This case study is an example of how one customer uses IBM products. There is no guarantee of comparable results. References in this publication to IBM products or services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference in this information to non-IBM Web sites are provided for convenience only and do not in any manner serve as an endorsement of those Web sites. The materials at those Web sites are not part of the materials for this IBM product and use of those Web sites is at your own risk.