Reinventing Reporting Processes with Argos & Data Cookbook
Butler Community College
At the beginning of 2011, the reporting situation at Butler Community College (Butler) was in need of a change. Although the school had implemented Banner® by Ellucian® student information system more than a decade before, their data was still largely siloed. Getting answers from the database was incredibly frustrating.
With no formal report development methodologies in place, reporting from one office to the next varied wildly. Legacy reports persisted, despite having outlived their usefulness. There were countless shadow systems in play, raising serious data management and security issues. College-wide, reporting was by and large a manual affair, which often meant hard-coded values, undocumented processes, and ill-defined terminology.
As a result of all these factors, confidence in the accuracy of the data was incredibly low. There were no assurances that the numbers coming out of one department would match the numbers from another. Report recipients had to resort to validating the data themselves, before they felt safe using it for any decision-making. All in all, Butler needed two things: A new system for producing their reports and an overhaul of their data governance environment as a whole.
As two companies with substantial expertise in higher education technology, Evisions and IData were able to join forces and provide Butler with an integrated solution that addresses both aspects of their predicament.
For report building, Evisions’ Argos Enterprise Reporting Solution had just what Butler was looking for. Argos offers powerful features for everything from simple reports to complex dashboards, putting Butler’s institutional data within easy reach. Argos provides not only efficiency, with easy-to-replicate reports, but also agility, with options for scaling and adapting their reporting capabilities over time.
On the data governance side, IData’s Data Cookbook was also ideally suited to help Butler build a better environment for their reporting. The Data Cookbook is a process improvement tool that helps institutions apply best practices to their reporting. Serving as a central reference for capturing Butler’s data definitions, development procedures and report specifications, the Data Cookbook improves clarity and consistency.
In the summer of 2012, the work began. IData and Evisions coordinated joint site visits to ensure Butler would get the most out of the implementation. Butler’s focus for the initial round of development was academics. In addition to building some higher-level trend and demographic reports, their priorities were to develop Argos reports on retention/ student success, program reviews and “front door” reports, which Butler uses to track students’ progress from the moment they come through the door.
The first step for Evisions and IData was to sit down with Butler’s reporting staff—on both the technical and the functional side—and have an in-depth discussion about their needs. With both companies’ extensive experience in the industry, they quickly understood Butler’s goals and were familiar with the workarounds they’d been using. That expertise helped them ask the right questions, which in turn helped get Butler’s functional and technical staff on the same page.
As part of these conversations, IData captured detailed data definitions and report specifications in the Data Cookbook, which the Evisions Professional Services team used to build the initial round of reports. This joint implementation was extremely beneficial. Not only did the Cookbook lay the groundwork for healthy, sustainable data governance habits, but the custom Argos reports, dashboards and OLAP cubes were quick-to-construct and carefully tailored to meet Butler’s needs.
For an idea of how this solution affects Butler’s reporting capabilities, take a retention report as an example. The Office of Research and Institutional Effectiveness puts together an institution-wide report that outlines retention trends over three years. Prior to Argos and the Data Cookbook, that report entailed four steps: 1) Defining the cohorts of new, full-time students and new, part-time students in each fall term. 2) Calculating what happens to them in the following two fall terms. 3) Breaking down that larger cohort by race, ethnicity and gender. And finally, 4) Producing readable bar charts from the underlying data tables.
Updated once a term, that single report took two staff members at least eight hours to assemble. At three times a year, that’s about 48 hours of staff time total. Now, with Argos and the Data Cookbook, that same report can be generated with the click of a button. And that’s just one report among many.
With these two tools at their disposal, Butler has access to a single, reliable view of their institutional data. They have a reporting environment that can grow with them. Butler can now put its institutional data to work, thanks to the efforts of IData and Evisions.