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ITS Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems was moved from ITS Enterprise Applications in April and is now its own distinct operating unit.

Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems now reports directly to the Office of the CIO. The team has 16 members, six of whom have been added in the last year. Rachel Serrano, who has worked in management of data warehousing and analytics for more than a dozen years, continues on as the group’s director.

Rachel Serrano
Rachel Serrano

The team moved out of Enterprise Applications for four primary reasons, said J. Michael Barker, Interim Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer. First, data reporting, analytics and the data warehouse are key to ITS’ work moving forward. This decoupling acknowledges the strategic significance of data reporting and analytics and prepares the organization for the realities of the IT landscape in higher education.

Second, the change enables the Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems team to align the development processes to its own needs and the needs of its customers.

Third, as its own unit, Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems can interact directly with a broader swath of the University’s units and projects, and thereby, increase engagement.

Finally, separating out Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems enables the unit to adjust governance and decision processes to suit the University’s priorities.

Data, then apply instinct

Higher education, Serrano said, often falls victim to anecdotes. “I know this is happening,” higher education professionals tend to say, “because we talked to students.” People working in higher ed make decisions to a large degree based on gut. That’s not a bad thing, Serrano said, but it’s much more helpful and reasonable to see a data picture and then apply instinct to drive action.

UNC-Chapel Hill and ITS want to create a data-informed campus. Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems (ERDS) aims to identify issues and opportunities that before might have been a story or a myth, like theories associated with the reasons for employee turnover or why one major or another is losing students. The advantage of a data warehouse is the ability to measure the lifecycle of employees and students, relate those to each other and include the impact of finances.

If the University can become more analytical, it can begin to predict when certain changes will occur. By looking at the data and asking why or why not, UNC-Chapel Hill can take more control over actions, Serrano said. Being able to measure is a powerful tool to understand what’s working and what’s not.

The ERDS team can accelerate delivering the products and capabilities the campus requires by designing a development process that is tailored to their customers, the outputs the team must produce, and the methods the team must apply.

More nimble means more responsive

Michael Barker
Michael Barker

Decoupling from Enterprise Applications enables Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems to meet its separate needs and use its own appropriate workflow. For Enterprise Applications, work in ConnectCarolina is transaction focused, so everything goes through a set planning process designed to minimally disrupt the business of the University. Enterprise Applications also has a specific audit needs for its transaction-based system that doesn’t necessarily translate to ERDS’ needs.

There are many changes that need to or can be made on the fly in reporting, that do not affect data input or output, and only relate to the visualization of data. The change management steps necessary for Enterprise Applications to maintain the sanctity of transaction processing don’t translate well to these kind of visualization changes and allowing people to truly explore data.

Decoupling governance enables ERDS to be responsive to these kind of requests. It’s not the Wild West — ERDS still has change management and migration processes. But with its own governance, the group can track changes and still be responsive while maneuvering with adequate speed through the planning process.

As a separate group with its own processes and governance, Serrano said, “We can be more nimble in how we respond to work requests.”

Benefiting from its own data structure

Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems and Enterprise Applications also require different platforms for their information. Enterprise Applications works in ConnectCarolina. ERDS needs a data warehouse, which has a different data structure than what one finds in ConnectCarolina.

Enterprise Reporting team
ITS Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Services team

ERDS can take data and build in business rules in the data, enabling use in any platform customers want, such as Tableau, SAS Visual Analytics or Microsoft’s Power BI business analytics service, to get the repeatable results they want. Before, ERDS had to dig the data out of ConnectCarolina and make manual manipulations.

Since the University began offering Tableau as an enterprise option in late May 2019, Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems has placed that platform at the forefront of its client outreach.

ERDS is working with UNC-Chapel Hill schools, departments and offices and learning about their data needs. When those entities get set up on Tableau, ERDS will provide them with a standard set of enterprise data from which they can aggregate data on their own. Previously, ERDS would separately aggregate this data.

In early pilots, Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems has been working with the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Business, Education, Medicine and Public Health.

Serrano enjoys meeting with customers and explaining what’s possible. “That’s the best part of my job,” she said. “They do get excited about the possibilities.”

Examples of customer assistance

Working with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, ERDS has designed data specifically for warehouses – a different data structure than the one found in ConnectCarolina – and created data reports that are more accessible than before.

Instead of manually manipulating data in ConnectCarolina, ERDS designed a method to automate data analysis for Admissions. From the first engagement, Admissions has been able to easily examine the population of applicants, admits and enrollees who have been awarded financial aid, and track that data over time, the first step in understanding how financial aid makes a difference in the matriculation decisions of admitted students.

Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems also has been helping with the HR and procurement piece of Operational Excellence. Within a few weeks, ERDS created dashboards that enable Operational Excellence to track progress to determine if it is meeting weekly goals. For instance, one goal is determining if hiring is happening faster. Data collection is now automated, and Operational Excellence can manage metrics week to week.

“We’re now able to move quickly to turn governance over to people specifically working on projects,” Serrano said. “This has enabled us to provide dashboard support with very quick turnaround.”

In this work with its clients, Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems is helping the University make decisions with data and support and improve the process. ERDS is gathering data, building in business rules, making it accessible and providing data to customers in a platform that works for them. By supplying tools and support and engaging with the campus community, ERDS is enabling UNC-Chapel Hill schools and groups to realize opportunities achieved through data reporting and analytics.

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