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a dashboard tailored to the needs of busy college deans. The Dean’s Dashboard is a collection of several high-level metrics from different business areas across the university. It is one result of a five-year process of creating an enterprise data warehouse and a culture of data stewardship across the uni- versity, as well as the deployment of an agile project man- agement process that fosters incremental improvement.
In fact, Jelena Roljevic, assistant vice president for busi- ness intelligence and enterprise information services at the university, said agile methodology and BI are a perfect mar- riage. “Users can rarely tell you their requirements up front with all the details,” she said. “We meet with business users to take in prioritized requirements — and two weeks later show them what we were able to develop based on their request. We work back and forth until we have a product. It is the only way I can see analytics being developed.”
The Dean’s Dashboard was launched in August 2016 after six such two-week agile sprints. It provides real-time, accurate data in an interactive and visual way. To make decisions, deans must draw on and understand information from an ecosystem of databases and repositories across the campus.
The visualizations “had to be very clear in what they were saying and we had to devise a capability to allow users to drill down to more detailed dashboards if the deans want to,” said Margaret Roldan, principal BI analyst.
The BI team said the dashboard allows deans to access the
“We meet with business users to take in prioritized requirements — and two weeks later show them what we were able to develop based on their request. We work back and forth until we have a product” — Jelena Roljevic, George Washington U
information they need at a much-reduced cost and time com- mitment from university support staff, who no longer have to dedicate large portions of their time to collecting and organiz- ing information. These staffers previously spent considerable time manually preparing reports and other information prod- ucts using tools such as Excel. The early success of the Dean’s Dashboard has spawned a complementary Division Dashboard that serves a similar purpose for executive leaders who manage university business units.
Before the Dean’s Dashboard could be created, quite a bit of work had to be done. Roljevic launched the BI initiative at GWU in 2012. The goal was to create a process in which dashboards could help faculty and staff groups access and manipulate data in an easy-to-consume way. Software tools used include IBM Cognos, Tableau for building interactive visualizations, and Informatica to help with data quality issues.
Among the first steps was creating a Business Intelligence Advisory Committee, a group of senior to mid-level managers from across the university, including some deans, to guide priorities. “We surveyed them asking what data is most impor-
tant to you; where are the biggest pain points in terms of get- ting information,” Roljevic recalled. They also looked at which data sets were missing from a data warehouse environment. Initially they had information on courses, students and faculty but lacked financial data. “One of the first tasks was to get that data and shape the content that we could push out to executive leadership,” she said.
Data stewardship, governance and trust are keys to the process, Roljevic said. “We put data-sharing agreements in place and the data stewards can control it.” So if the BI team is asked to build something that uses human resources data, staffers will create a data-sharing request and the steward can approve it or not, or set conditions. That has been helpful as the team approaches more sensitive data sources, such as how students and faculty use access cards as they move around the campus.
The BI team learned a few lessons during development of the Dean’s Dashboard. One was that they had to push the information to deans in the form of regular e-mails rather than expecting deans to log in to the Tableau server to look
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | January/February 2018

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