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Is Business Analytics tool a good fit here?

We are a rapidly expanding school network. We uses spreadsheets ("enrollment model") tracking student enrollment, teacher staffing level, student attrition, class size etc, and making forecast 2 to 5 years out. The Model is leveraged by pretty much everyone in the organization, e.g., recruitment, school construction, fixed asset planning, finance, etc. We are implementing a BI tool on the financial reporting side, linking it with our MS Dynamics and loading the budgets into it. People are asking why we can't use the BI tool to replace the Model for obvious reasons (spreadsheets don't have audit trail, error prone, frequent crashes, etc.), but I have some doubts on this: 1. Currently all the source data are manually input into the Model. We don't really have an ERP spilling out student & staffing data. 2. Frequent changes are made to the Model, adding a class, expanding & downsizing a particular school / staffing level, adding special program, etc. I just don't think any BI tool would provide that level of flexibility. Any thoughts and comments are highly appreciated.

Answers

Topic Expert
Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Anon,
If your Dynamics system can provide financial data into your BI tool, why not consider your SIS system (your student information system) to provide operational data about classes,schedules, enrollments, teacher levels, etc. And other systems may be needed to provide other data (e.g. asset information, staff salaries....).

If the BI tool supports modeling, then you can impose a discipline and a process to designing the model so that what you call frequent changes above become more like standard features of the model.

What is the BI tool you are considering? Maybe hold back on a decision until you establish what your modeling needs are.

Anonymous
(Internal Audit) |

We are in the midst of developing a SIS. Due to frequent issues / bugs / misses with the system, the owner of the enrollment model doesn't want to have anything to do with SIS. In addition, I doubt there will be resources available to build a link between SIS and BI tool, as there are more urgent issues to deal with on the SIS side.

Same thing on the staffing side. We are developing a HRIS but again that's a big unknown.

Norman Katz
Title: President
Company: Katzscan, Inc.
LinkedIn Profile
(President, Katzscan, Inc.) |

You may want to consider a hybrid approach where the source data is entered into a database that has some controls and audit capabilities and provides the source into Excel for analysis. Even starting with a Microsoft Access database feeding the Excel would at least be a good first step because it would allow you to model the database before migrating it to something more robust like SQL-Server. Attaching Excel to Access or output the data to Excel still provides some distinction between the database and the BI tool (Excel), thus control over the source data in the separation of the two. This advances the storing of master data in worksheets in workbooks and moves you towards a data repository step-by-step which is what you would be exploring with a Business Intelligence tool sourcing from an ERP system. This methodology therefore has several benefits. I hope you found this answer helpful.

Topic Expert
Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Anon
It's interesting that your organization ( a school network) is also in the business of designing, developing and maintaining software (SIS and HRIS are two that you mention). Neither are easy to do compared to ERP systems, in my experience.

I know that some education vendors do a terrible job of serving education, but that may not mean your only option is to build your own. What's prompted the need to create your own when there are a number of established education-oriented software publishers out there?

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