REVIEWER: Dr. Ahmed El-Haggan, VP of IT and CIO for Coppin State University.

BACKGROUND: Coppin State University (CSU) is a fully accredited institution with quality undergraduate and graduate degree programs, attracting students from around the world. Despite its small IT staff and limited resources, CSU is widely recognized as an innovator in the use of IT.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft Office Performance-Point Server 2007, SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition (Integration Services, Analysis Services and Reporting Services), Microsoft Windows 2000 and Microsoft Office 2007.

PROBLEM SOLVED: CSU needed a way to provide quality business and student performance information to users across our organization. We also wanted a better way to manage and access complicated metrics that are designed to measure the progress and success of our students, as required to maintain our status as an accredited university. From the faculty level all the way up to the president, everyone should have access to data at any time in order to make well-informed decisions on their own.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Before implementing our Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) solution, it took our School of Education about one-and-a-half full-time employees to manually track our students’ progress. That is about 3,000 work hours per year that we replaced with a push of a button. It’s not only the savings in work hours that we were interested in, but also the BI, the outcomes assessment and the ability to track the progress of our students down to a great detail. That was impossible before.

STRENGTHS: We value the ability to empower our users with access to important information. For example, we have always been very good at obtaining grants, but the process is extremely long and research intensive. However, with Microsoft BI we were able to independently get all of the pertinent data needed, and we saved two to three weeks worth of research work. As a result, we received a $750,000 grant for our nursing school that we might not have received.

WEAKNESSES: A weakness to note is administration of workgroups as it relates to security. Also, we would prefer a graphical user interface to manage user access to libraries and data models.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We were using a PeopleSoft enterprise resource planning application and HEAT helpdesk platform. When we looked at adding a BI solution, we knew we needed one that would not take two or three years to implement. Any new tool had to be easy to use with minimal training because it would be deployed to 200 users across the organization. The ease of use and familiar Microsoft Office environment of the solution were very important because we could push it out to more users throughout the university. Lastly, we felt very strongly that the SQL Server environment was more than adequately scalable and knew integrating with both SQL Server and Windows Server 2000 was the best choice.

DELIVERABLES: Working with our partner iStrategy, we were able to create a data model that included both relational star schemas and OLAP cubes that enabled the application to be installed in days and implemented within weeks. Immediately after installation, we were able to drill down to underlying detail, with the ability to quickly export the information to other applications, including Microsoft Office Excel, for further analysis. It’s extremely intuitive and easy to customize. We get a graph to analyze whatever we need.

VENDOR SUPPORT: iStrategy Consulting has provided excellent support for the Microsoft BI solution. They have also organized a user group and frequently conduct 60-minute Web sessions on using BI tools and the analytics.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is complete and easy to understand. Users could rely on the documentation to use the product.

Microsoft Business Intelligence
Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399
(425) 882-8080

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