REVIEWER: Cindy Sedlacek, director of data administration and reporting, College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University.
BACKGROUND: Cornell University is an Ivy League institution comprised of seven undergraduate colleges and four graduate and professional schools. The university serves more than 2,700 faculty and more than 20,000 graduate and undergraduate students.
PLATFORMS: Cornell is running Tableau Desktop on Windows and Tableau Server on Windows Server 2003. Its deployment also incorporates SQL Server 2005, Oracle 11g and Microsoft Excel and Access.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Cornell Universitys key performance indicator initiative is among the highest-priority IT projects on campus. Through the KPI initiative, Cornells deans and business officers use analytics to measure a variety of metrics in order to assess the present state of business, measure performance and progress toward goals and inform decisions on future courses of action. However, when the University began its KPI initiative in February 2007 using an enterprise-wide business intelligence platform, it quickly became evident that the initial solution wasnt doing the job. The platform required resources that Cornell could not afford to spare (such as people and infrastructure) and generated results that were not equivalent to the amount of effort the KPI team put into it.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: In August 2007, the Cornell team discovered Tableau - a visual data analysis solution that combines analytical capabilities with the ability to share and collaborate via the Web. Unlike traditional visualization systems, Tableaus approach to visualization allowed staff to immediately see trends and patterns in the analyses. Additionally, Tableaus sharing capabilities and real-time data updates proved invaluable for the universitys deans and other leadership, who previously received static reports that were often out of date by the time they received them. Since deploying Tableau, the University has been able to deliver 10 times as many analytic views in half the time and reduce the team size by more than half. In addition, the success of the initiative has resulted in broader adoption of analytics throughout the campus - five additional groups are now using Tableau, and the university has created custom training sessions to get individual users up and running with Tableau. Finally, the use of Tableau across Cornells colleges has encouraged campus leadership to re-evaluate the Universitys data access policy. Historically, each college had only been allowed access to data specific to that college. Now, an effort by the college Deans is underway to have a more open data access policy - a major culture leap for Cornell.
STRENGTHS:The ability of Tableau to turn analysis from number crunching to picture reading has revolutionized decision support tasks at Cornell. Users can now understand relationships in the data that werent visible before, and deans and other executives are getting much more value from their reports and dashboards. Furthermore, Tableau has allowed the colleges to use their technical and business staff more wisely. Instead of having several IT specialists in each college, as required with the initial tool, the colleges have been able to cross-train with the majority of the team involved, streamlining analysis efforts and more efficiently using the resources available to them.
WEAKNESS: When Cornell originally purchased Tableau, it did not have single sign-on functionality. After subsequent conversations with the Tableau team, however, the company not only added this functionality but also delivered it earlier than anticipated.
SELECTION CRITERIA: In order to successfully execute its KPI program, Cornell needed a solution that would serve all schools across the organization and could be customized to meet individual needs, eliminate duplication of efforts regarding analytical processes and advance the quality of data insights gathered from KPI reporting. Tableau was the only solution that enabled Cornell to meet all of these requirements.
DELIVERABLES: Currently, Cornell is using Tableau to create reports and dashboards that enable deans to gain insight into their specific college. Reports are updated in real time and distributed via Tableaus Web-based Server application, which allows users to further analyze data and collaborate with others across campus.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Tableau has been extremely receptive to requests for additional features (such as the ability for a user to save a specific point of view) and regularly delivers on those features earlier than anticipated.
DOCUMENTATION: All documentation provided by Tableau has been clear and easy to understand.
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