Wright State University plans in August to begin using a first-of-its-kind business intelligence (BI) solution that promises to provide easy, on-demand access to accurate information to university leaders that will help them plan, measure and make decisions at multiple levels of the university.
“This is a game changer for the way we process and use data,” said Mark Polatajko, vice president for business and finance.
Business intelligence is the set of techniques and tools used to transform raw data into useful information for business analysis purposes. Business intelligence technologies help organizations easily manipulate large amounts of data in an effort to identify, develop and create business strategies.
The use of business intelligence has become increasingly common in commercial industry, but few institutions of higher education have deployed it.
Wright State committed to developing this strategic asset at the start of the year when the university created the Strategic Information and Business Intelligence department within the Division of Business.
University leaders believe that business intelligence can satisfy an urgent need for Wright State and higher education to understand, engage and support students according to specific demographics.
“Wright State University is at the forefront of using business intelligence applications in higher education,” said Polatajko. “Our team has not only developed technology that will revolutionize the way Wright State uses data, but they have generated tools that have applications and commercialization potential across the higher education environment.”
“This tool aligns the university with its strategic goals by providing easy access to accurate data, data trends, data patterns and predictive models,” said Sasanka Prabhala, executive director of strategic information and business intelligence. “It provides data insights for tactical and strategic decision-making across multiple layers of management such as VPs, deans, department chairs and program managers.”
University leaders say the Wright State BI solution will provide a holistic view that will drive student success and program effectiveness at Wright State.
The university is already using it to surface impactful and accurate information as well as knowledge-based patterns and trends.
“We’ve seen a very positive reaction from deans and vice presidents across campus. They are excited by the possibilities for predicting and designing the best opportunities for student outcomes,” said Polatajko.
In a beta testing phase with the College of Engineering and Computer Science and the Raj Soin College of Business respectively, it has provided users a single view and entry point through a portal that helps them explore focus areas and key metrics.
“Business intelligence is poised to revolutionize Wright State University’s ability to run its operation. I am a big supporter of BI because it allows the university to run in the most effective way by transforming raw data into meaningful information for users, and enables individuals’ productivity and efficiency through access to real-time data,” said Raj Soin College of Business Dean Joanne Li. “With this initiative, Wright State University will be able to identify problems and solutions in a timely fashion and encourage thoughtful analyses across a broad spectrum, from enrollment data to financial statements.”
The first formal initiative Wright State plans to apply it to will be student based. Data gathering that should improve the university’s ability to understand, engage and support students will begin in August 2015. The university also plans to apply it to future initiatives in finance and human resources.
“The Wright State business intelligence model provides a holistic view to drive student success and program effectiveness rather than experimenting in a piecemeal fashion,” said Prabhala.
Wright State had been using the IBM Cognos Business Intelligence tool since 2010 but mostly as a reporting tool that was limited in its impact. This was attributed in part to a lack of a user-centered design that ultimately deterred users from using it as a true BI tool.
“We have developed a path forward that shifts a culture — from manual, labor-intensive, historic-based reporting into efficient, effective, delivered reporting that transforms the manner in which we work to a value-added, analysis-based manner,” said Polatajko. “This is a truly powerful move from mere data to wisdom.”