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Data Warehouse

by Joe Santinello

Like most higher education institutions, Sacramento State is facing a new set of challenges that are more complex than ever. Overcoming fierce competition for the best students, meeting diverse student needs, finding adequate funds to meet constantly shifting demands, and increased accountability to internal and external constituents are affecting all aspects of Sac State’s business processes and planning for recruitment and retention. The complexity of these challenges requires continuous analysis and improvement of operational strategies based on accurate and timely data.

In order to create a high-caliber decision support environment, Sac State is turning to so-called “data warehousing” technology combined with “business intelligence” applications to deliver key performance metrics to end users both on-demand and at their desktops. This technology will allow high level data analysis and effective and timely reporting capabilities at the lowest functional level within the
university, using simplified data structures and intuitive reporting tools.

The initial phase of this project is currently underway and will provide reportable data elements for the student admissions, records and enrollment areas. This will present administrators the data needed to make informed decisions related to recruitment, retention and graduation. Additional phases are in the planning stages and include a financial data warehouse with the goal of replacing the current PeopleSoft nVision reporting environment, and the implementation of a new financial planning and budgeting tool that will use the data warehouse to help with budget formulation, approval and submission.

The business intelligence piece of this effort is a web based application from Cognos Corporation, a subsidiary of IBM. This sophisticated product provides modeled data to consumers, query users and specialized report writers across campus. By using Cognos to ‘model’ our data warehouse, we’ve alleviated the need to understand how the different data elements relate and how data is aggregated to provide meaningful statistics. This helps the decision maker concentrate on the questions they want the data to answer, and not on the structure of the data itself.

Putting together a data warehouse and creating the data models is a time consuming, collaborative, exacting and difficult task. The dedicated data warehouse project team is working hard with functional staff from across campus (e.g. enrollment and budget managers) to provide this critical decision support system. Stay tuned for more information, and the roll-out of the first phase products soon.

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