Metro Technology Centers is a career and technology center with four campuses. Established in 1979, the school provides full-time career majors for high school and adult students. Managing both school programs and job placement, there are a tremendous number of metrics being stored in many formats, including Excel, Access, SQL Server, Oracle, and a homegrown data warehouse. As Executive Officer of Information Technology Services, Matt Campbell's mission was to find a way to link all the data together so they could ask questions and get reliable answers. The implementation of Sisense has seen many benefits, such as real-time insights and maintaining their staff count.
We had all this data and we couldn’t make full use of it until we got Sisense, and we did it all without having to outsource either.
The Challenge: Connecting Many Data Sources
Metro Technology Centers’ main focus is on their education programs, which also extend into job placements. It’s important that they are able to track 17 key performance measures (KPM) related to demographics, student satisfaction surveys, finances, student retention, completion, and placement information. The issue for Matt wasn’t so much the volume of data, but the vast quantity of disparate data sources that couldn’t reasonably be hooked together. Every business unit was tracking information differently, from paper, MS Excel, MS Access to SQL Server and Oracle. Metro Tech had a homegrown data warehouse they’d been using for a number of years, but it wasn’t intuitive for their end users and it had to be customized for each application that needed access. As forms and processes changed, the data warehouse would break and have to be rebuilt.
Their reporting functionality was very laborious, to make any changes or add filtering took a lot of time to re-render. The organization was changing rapidly, so Matt really wanted something on the cutting edge that was easier to work with and allowed them to quickly ask meaningful questions of their data.
The Search is on
Matt needed to find a solution that the management personnel could understand and easily work with, but the numbers had to be correct as well. He looked at enhancing their homegrown system on Oracle, but that just wasn’t feasible with their resources. He looked at a number of products, but their “in memory” model couldn’t handle his modest requirements, and they also couldn’t join all their data sources together.
As part of the proof of concept, Matt setup two different test case scenarios to validate that Sisense could do what he needed. First, he was pulling financial data from a SQL Server database. With Sisense assistance, he pulled in the views, described the data connections, and then built a dashboard to illustrate the possibilities afforded within a Sisense dashboard to evaluate and drill down on their data. The results were exceptional.
The next test was to link up all the information collected in their satisfaction surveys. This data, spread across SQL Server, Oracle, and MS Excel, covered student surveys that evaluated facilities, courses, and instructors. With Sisense, they were able to connect all this data and provide a unified view. Something no other product was able to do.
This process wasn’t really about saving time or processing faster, it was a way of looking at our data in a whole new and productive way.
Minimal Effort, Maximum Benefit
Matt had a new process to implement related to school lunch participation information. He needed to apply lunch usage data to the existing student demographics so they could see which groups were making use of the program. Matt was able to simply load the lunch data into the ElastiCube and the reporting was ready to go. He didn’t need to regenerate the cube or create a new dashboard, the new data point was immediately available to the existing system.
Since Metro Tech’s various divisions have no single application or methodology for collecting data, that means Matt is dealing with a huge disparity of data types and sources. A major selling point of Sisense was that they could look at all of this disconnected data from a single view and be able to visualize in ways not possible before. They can now slice and dice, drill down, and query with ease.
Matt has been able to avoid hiring any new people and free up two man-weeks per month in IT with Sisense. Metro Tech’s executive team reviews each measure monthly and assigns responsibility to action teams when they see low performance or areas of concern. For two years now, they have used the dashboards in an annual retreat with their board to review all the results for the previous year’s key performance measures. They also have six high-level reports that are mandated by the state to be made to the board each year, and three of those reports are getting their data solely from the dashboards. The visibility and performance improvements due to Sisense are phenomenal.