REVIEWER: Karl Lacher, manger of business intelligence for Capella University.
BACKGROUND: Founded in 1993, Capella University is an accredited online university that offers graduate degree programs in business, information technology, education, human services and psychology, as well as a Bachelor of Science online degree program with 10 specializations in business and information technology. The online university currently serves more than 13,000 enrolled learners from all 50 states and 55 countries.
PLATFORMS: Windows 2003 Server and Windows XP Professional.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Capella University's executive management team launched an initiative to improve the organization's use of its data resources in order to better manage the performance of the university. As the university's data warehousing project took shape, the IT organization quickly realized they lacked the proper toolset to easily display these KPIs to the university's decision-makers.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Capella's first step toward a more successful BI initiative was to move all of its operational data to a SQL Server database. Utilizing ProClarity and Microsoft Analysis Services, the IT department could now more easily put data into a cube format to display hierarchies and relationships to end users, completely freeing the business side of the organization from the back-end data formatting process. The flexibility of the ProClarity and Microsoft solution allows IT to tailor the delivery of data according to unique user needs across several departments, including admissions, marketing, finance and individual educational departments.
STRENGTHS: A main strength of the product is scalability. ProClarity has performed well, and there have been no issues with performance. Additionally, the concurrent licensing model is advantageous for Capella because it provides flexibility in meeting the user demand. This is especially important in a growth organization; we can deal with the number of users as a range rather than a discrete quantity. A third strength is ProClarity's customer support, which has been superb. It began with presales support and has been prompt and consistent. ProClarity's support model is proactive; the account representative contacts us on a regular basis to make sure the product is meeting our expectations and to see if there is any other assistance they can provide.
WEAKNESSES: The only weakness of the product is that it is specific to using Microsoft Analysis Services.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Prior to ProClarity, Capella had been using a standard reporting tool that required a lot of IT intervention to help users understand the relational database model. We really needed a presentation component that would permit the end users to quickly and easily understand student enrollment trends without requiring too much IT involvement, which would allow them to make better forecasts for upcoming quarters. Capella's BI team first considered Web components as a front-end solution; however, it was quickly decided that it simply did not have the resources to develop adequate tools. We began the search for an out-of-the-box front-end solution to the dimensionally modeled data warehouse hosted on Microsoft SQL Server 2000.
DELIVERABLES: The ProClarity and Microsoft BI solution has significantly improved Capella's access to information, providing a solid foundation for better decision-making across the organization. Approximately 20 business analysts use ProClarity Professional's robust slice-and-dice capabilities to perform deep root-cause analysis of the data. Capella's executive team relies primarily on ProClarity dashboards and enhanced charting capabilities to display high-level KPI information, allowing them to better monitor the performance of the university.
VENDOR SUPPORT: ProClarity had a technical salesperson on site who installed the software on our server within one hour, hooked directly to the cubes we had built. They were able to provide a working demo that same day and left a copy installed for us to evaluate. Post-implementation support has been fantastic. The best part of working with ProClarity is their people; they are customer focused and service-oriented.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is comprehensive and complete.
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