REVIEWER: Simon Moloney CIO for Uncommon Schools.
BACKGROUND: Uncommon Schools is a nonprofit organization that starts and manages urban charter public schools that prepare low-income students to graduate from college. Uncommon Schools manages 16 schools in New York City, upstate New York and Newark, New Jersey. The organization also has two associate member schools in Boston. Uncommon Schools will ultimately encompass 33 schools, serving nearly 12,000 kindergarten through 12th grade students.
PLATFORMS: We run Qlikview Infinity Analytics on Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 7, Windows Server 2003.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Infinity Analytics addressed the organization’s need to measure and track the progress of a variety of metrics. Specifically, the product provides real time information and updates and presents the data via a balanced scorecard that enables the executive team to gauge the performance of employees, students, charter schools, recruitment efforts and virtually every aspect of the school system. The value of this product goes beyond the education market and is applicable to any organization that needs to drill down into profiling, skills, demographics and related employee information.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The product is used to measure the progress of three critical areas across the organization. The first is the social impact of how the students are progressing toward established goals and supporting the organization’s overall mission. The second area measured is the systems, including the various sources of information, metrics and processes that are located in various databases, spreadsheets and previously paper-based systems. And the third aspect represents people and tracking of activities associated with employees and students. The ability to track progress and report information on nearly any dynamic or metric throughout the Uncommon Schools system and present it in a meaningful way through a dashboard is critical to maintaining an active charter and sustaining the organization’s mission.
STRENGTHS: The five main strengths of the product are its ability to streamline reporting, which leads to more efficient use of resources; the ability to view, measure and analyze data in ways that were previously time-consuming and primarily paper-based; the creation of a more accurate and consistent feedback loop on the performance of every aspect of the organization from management to employees to students; its ability to easily pull data directly from more than 11 core data sources, regardless of whether or not there is a data warehouse in place; and its standards-based technology, which can easily integrate various data sources.
WEAKNESSES: The main weakness of the product is its licensing structure, which is intended for enterprise organizations with multiple concurrent users as opposed to educational environments with sporadic use by employees spanning all different levels and functions in the organization.
SELECTION CRITERIA: This product was selected based on the combination of the technology and the consulting team responsible for its implementation. From a product view, the driving factors were flexibility, deep analytics and the ability to measure and track progress in real time. From the consulting view, the services team experts were able to help determine the roadmap to success and customize the system to address the organization’s overarching business goals in a very short amount of time.
DELIVERABLES: The product supports ad hoc analysis and the creation of reports on the fly as well as standard reports that are generated in the system through templates. The most common reports are used for: tracking employee satisfaction, the processes associated with employee recruitment; student success throughout their entire educational career; the overall progress of the school system down to an individual level, and the financial aspects of the school system.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The vendor did an outstanding job in supporting the product during pre- and post-implementation. They partnered with Uncommon Schools and remain fully vested in the organization’s success. Additionally, they were able to customize the solution to accommodate the fact that the Uncommon Schools IT staff is very small. With this product, nearly every employee is able to get up and running quickly to run analytics on their own, which is important given that the majority of users do not have an IT background.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is interactive and embedded in the application.
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