September 6, 2011
For Department Heads: SIS update #20
This edition of the SIS Update is devoted to a single topic that requires some explanation. Thanks for your patience in reading it:
New infrastructure will support reporting
As we continue through the process of implementing the new Student Information System (SIS), we have achieved a complex and interrelated set of goals -- we have now used the new SIS to admit an entering class of students, create a schedule of classes for a term, register returning and new students in classes, make textbook information available to students, distribute financial aid, issue bills, and create advisement reports, class schedules and class rosters. Later this fall we will gather grade information from faculty and issue the first set of grade reports.
Less visibly, we have been working with Information Technology Services (ITS) to build a new infrastructure that will support the reporting function -- across all campus needs, not just for SIS. "Reporting" is a broad term that describes the process of pulling data out of our systems and putting them into a form that meets some need. Some reports are provided to entities outside of the University (Board of Regents, State of Iowa, US Department of Education, etc) and some are provided to units within the University. Some are required on a routine (annual, monthly, per semester, etc) and some are ad-hoc, supporting a particular analysis or project. Some are required and incur severe consequences if they are not provided by a deadline, some are essential to make other processes work, some inform planning or decision making, and some are useful but not essential. As you'll see below, these combine into a staggering number of reports that existed within the legacy SIS.
These are the steps in this process of building the new infrastructure, along with a note about the status of each. (For tech-savvy people who are reading this, please excuse my layperson's terminology!):
-- Develop a "data warehouse" -- This means that we create a single storage area for all University data (student, financial, employee, etc) rather than have portions of data housed in different offices, in different forms, or on different servers across campus. It involves acquiring and installing hardware and software. This is completed.
-- Load data from new and current systems into the data warehouse -- We have loaded data from Admissions, Financial Aid and some Student Records. We still need to load remaining Student Records plus MEMFIS and Financials. This is underway.
-- Determine which software tools will be used to pull and organize data from the data warehouse -- There are two being used. PS Query can develop reports from SIS; these are more informational in nature. Oracle Business Intelligence software (OBI) can develop reports and more sophisticated analyses on data drawn from the University-wide data warehouse; these will inform decision making at a more strategic level. This is completed.
-- Train key, central staff to use the data extraction tools -- Initial training on these began on 2010. Staff to lead and support the effort have been identified. This is completed.
-- For SIS in particular, inventory all reports that were produced in the old (legacy) system -- The inventory is almost concluded and shows so far that a total of approximately 2,500 reports existed in the old (legacy) SIS. This is underway.
-- Determine which reports are no longer needed and prioritize those remaining -- This analysis took some time, but many reports were determined to be "no longer needed." None of these were reports were eliminated without concurrence of the report's owners, i.e. those persons or departments that had previously requested the creation of the reports. Remaining reports were prioritized for re-creation. This is completed.
-- Re-create needed reports -- Four staff from ITS are currently devoted to the data warehouse and report development effort. Current staff at Registrar's Office, Student Financial Aid, Admissions and Business Operations have been trained and are working to develop reports. An additional four staff from Student Affairs are being partially re-deployed to help meet the need for report development. This is underway.
-- Prepare additional staff across campus to generate their own reports -- This is in planning and not yet underway.
It's obvious from this scenario, that not every current report can be re-created in the new system at the same time. As a result, some requests for reports will be delayed and the availability of new reports will be limited for some period of time. We are working to develop a means to update those waiting for reports on their status in the development process and will let you know about this as soon as it is ready.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. We have made great progress, working together, to achieve the milestones that we have achieved in the last year. We will undoubtedly overcome this final (and admittedly substantial) hurdle, and find ourselves in a better, more sustainable and more useful information environment at the end of this school year.