Interfolio Streamlines Faculty Management with a Modern Cloud Data Strategy
Interfolio believes that smart people deserve smart technology. Leveraged by over 300 institutions of higher education across the globe such as Cal Poly, Northwestern, and NYU, its software services are used to track faculty hiring processes, streamline accreditation and activity reportings, and improve workflows for promotion, tenure, and review.
As Interfolio’s user base grew along with the volume of data, Principal Architect Joe Brislin understood that it was time to consider a modern data strategy. The right solution would unify internal data to empower Interfolio teams, provide a more streamlined reporting process for QBRs with key customers, and would be flexible and scalable enough to eventually serve as an embedded solution within the Interfolio platform. The search was on.
The challenge: achieving a unified view of internal data
With internal analytics use cases and 3rd party data sources expanding rapidly, Joe’s primary challenge was selecting a BI platform and a cloud data platform that could handle multiple data sources, model complexity, and enable straightforward dashboard creation.
Internal analytics use cases at Interfolio span a variety of projects, and Joe wanted an eventual solution to solve for all of them. On the consumer side of the business, individual faculty members utilize a subscription-based service called Dossier. In Dossier, they can create a profile and apply for grants, mentorship, or new positions. A competing BI vendor had allowed the team to manage their consumer-based SaaS metrics and reporting, but as data sets grew exponentially, the application was no longer performant or scalable.
On the enterprise side, the company was eager to streamline reporting data for quarterly business reviews. With a growing list of 3rd party applications like Quikbooks, Salesforce, and Pendo, account managers needed an easier way to unify data and demonstrate ROI to the institutional accounts they manage. A separate competing vendor as well as an in-house solution were used to manage this reporting workflow, but neither were agile enough to enable an expanding set of data sources.
The solution: a cloud data strategy with Sisense and Snowflake
Describing his thought process for tool selection, Joe observed that “part of (the) consideration in selecting a BI solution was to enable institutions to use it on their own.” Around the same time that Interfolio began considering Sisense, Joe was also evaluating cloud data warehouses. “At the time we had a data puddle,” says Joe. “It was essentially a data lake built on top of a Postgres database.”
Joe knew that if they were investing in Sisense, they would need a data warehouse that was sound and could scale with the organization as their data and analytics needs expanded. With Sisense and Snowflake, performance, scalability, and maintenance would no longer be an issue. As Joe saw it, Sisense’s platform provided the flexibility to prepare, query, and manage data within Snowflake using both code and a web-based, visual data modeling experience. And with the option to use both live and in-memory data options, Interfolio’s ability to derive greater insights from their data would be limitless.
With initial use cases deployed, an embedded analytics project is next on Joe’s list of priorities – specifically, an embedded reporting capability within Interfolio’s Faculty Search module. “Now more than ever, institutions are mindful of their hiring practices, and are particularly interested in ensuring their hiring practices are in line with EEO guidelines,” says Joe. “Now that all of our major 3rd party data sources are integrated into our analytics workflow, we can start thinking about integrating external data sets that will allow institutions to understand where they stand in terms of EEO and compare themselves against industry benchmarks.”
Today, Joe and his team are empowering departments across the company to get more hands-on with their data. Building a data-driven organization is a process, but with the right platforms supporting their data workflows, the team is nurturing a culture of curiosity and data literacy at all levels of the company. Says Joe,
“As our internal stakeholders become more familiar with all of the data they have access to, rather than building dashboards for them, we’ve started giving power users the ability to design their own. With Snowflake, it’s simple for our team to pull any additional data they might request directly into Sisense to keep them enabled with the most up-to-date insights.”
For Joe, speed and efficiency are paramount, especially when it comes to doing business in the 2020 economy. Quite recently, as the company’s employees transitioned to a virtual working model as a result of COVID-19, Joe and his team found themselves wanting to understand trends in application utilization, to ensure the Interfolio workforce was supported and enabled to do their best work. What may have taken more than a month to complete previously, took only a week to produce when executed in a Sisense and Snowflake data environment.
“Sisense and Snowflake have exponentially increased our efficiency. The ease of these ad-hoc projects just keeps proving over and over that we made the right choice when building our data stack.”Joe Brislin, Principle Architect at Interfolio