BACKGROUND: The Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System (CCCOES) consists of a consortium of 14 colleges plus a governing state board. It is the largest higher education organization in the state with 70,000 full-time students, 250,000 total students and 3,500 employees.
PLATFORMS: CCCOES runs Knosys ProClarity on Windows 95/NT workstations and Microsoft IIE 4.01 on the client side. On the server side, Windows NT 4.0 runs on Alpha 2100, quad processors with 512MB memory.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Each of the 14 colleges has data stored on Alpha 2100 systems. Every night the individual college systems download flat file transactional data over a T1 to each college. For a number of years, IT was bombarded with requests for reports and had to write custom queries in house, generate reports and then give the end users a flat file containing data to manipulate. Each time the state board requested statistical data, it had to request a batch job be run at each college's data site, fax the information back to the state board and then re-input that data into spreadsheet. The reporting system prompted CCCOES to investigate more intuitive and analytical business intelligence solutions. In determining what approach to take to deliver the information, the organization had several objectives in mind. First, get the CCCOES IT group out of the report generation business by finding a solution that allowed even inexperienced users to get their own information. Second, deliver end-user tools within a Web browser so they didn't need to install and maintain a specialty application across their many locations. Finally, as a taxpayer assisted organization, they needed to get the job done without breaking the bank.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With Microsoft and Knosys, we have a business intelligence solution that can help us analyze and understand many different key aspects of our organization including demographics of the student population, the impact of marketing/recruitment efforts, growth patterns within disciplines and the trends in educational demands coming from the students. This information allows our decision-makers to make improvements to the college system. CCCOES also strips data out of the 14 college data warehouses and loads it into a data warehouse at the State Board Office where additional Microsoft OLAP Services cubes are built. The decision-makers at the state board then use Knosys ProClarity to analyze the data and make decisions on funding and college system direction.
STRENGTHS: By using the Knosys ProClarity Active Books Web-based analysis solution, many different types of users are able to access and analyze the data using only their Web browser. Decision-makers, including the registrar, administrative directors, financial aid directors, department heads, research associates, controllers and vice presidents, use ProClarity to analyze student and course information. The ability of the novice user to develop statistical reports without having to put a request into the IT department has removed a tremendous workload from the IT staff. This allows the IT staff to develop other applications and enhancements.
WEAKNESSES: There is little ability to customize backgrounds, fonts and colors. It would be nice to have support for Netscape without having to purchase a third-party product.
SELECTION CRITERIA: CCCOES learned from Microsoft that Knosys could help them take advantage of the masses of student data collected by the colleges by building multidimensional business models using Microsoft OLAP Services with SQL Server 7.0. Knosys ProClarity provided the exceptional ease of information navigation and querying, plus the Web browser-based (a mandatory design criteria) approach required to fully deliver on the organization's objectives.
DELIVERABLES: Transactional data for each individual college is stored in a SQL Server 7.0 data warehouse and then used to build OLAP Services cubes. Decision-makers use the ProClarity client to analyze and deploy the data via the Web. Key views are stored in ProClarity Active Books and posted to the intranet for decision-makers to access. On the financial side, all fiscal monthly reporting is now done using data warehousing. Financial cubes are built for the State Board, giving them the ability to see consolidated financials for the first time.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Knosys was extremely helpful and knowledgeable throughout this entire process.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation provided by Knosys was exceptional. Upon receiving the software and documentation, our programmer had the application generating statistical reports within 15 minutes.
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