Q/A with the ITS team at Atlantic Cape Community College
Tell me a little about your institution.
Atlantic Cape Community College is an accredited, co-educational, two-year, public, community college located in both Atlantic County and Cape May County in New Jersey that enrolls more than 6,500 students.
How were you handling reporting prior to Informer?
We were using Focus® from Information Builders to report against our legacy mainframe system. Although we had a handful of power users, the bulk of the reporting was done by Information Technology Services (ITS) and then distributed to various departments.
What reporting challenges or inefficiencies were you facing and how did they impact your organization?
We used Focus® for many years and it’s a powerful reporting tool. However the learning curve for most end users was too steep. Writing reports required users to master working within an IBM VM environment, learn Focus® syntax, conceptualize the steps needed to formulate a sensible query, and understand how to reference the data files and fields as defined in the Master File Description (MFD) for our legacy system. For staff that didn’t program for a living this was, understandably, just too much to deal with.
What were you hoping to accomplish with a new reporting solution?
To put in place a web-based tool which was easier for end users to work with and would therefore be used by more of them on a daily basis. This was made possible by Informer’s architecture where we (ITS) could do the behind-the-scenes setup and then give end users the ability to run the reports when they want to. A real plus of Informer is that end users can make ad hoc modifications to the output which provides for additional reporting flexibility.
Why did you choose Informer?
It was critical that we secured a tool that was expressly designed to work with (but is certainly not limited to) multivalue databases such as UniData. We also required a tool that could report directly against our production environment. For our end-users the reporting tool had to be web-based and easy to access. Finally, platform-independence was vital; we use Unix/Linux systems when we can and didn’t want to be tied to a specific OS; Informer is Java-based and makes that possible.
We spoke directly to other colleges already using Informer and got unanimously strong statements in favor of the product from all the customers we contacted. Frankly, finding Informer and determining that it had these capabilities became one of our decision points for selecting Datatel’s Colleague system and implementing it on UniData.
What were the features of Informer that you particularly liked?
Quick query development; e.g. rapid turnaround in testing especially relative to writing in Uniquery. Also flexibility in output formats; e.g., PDF and Live Excel. An very important feature is good administrative controls over data access.
What kinds of reports are you creating with Informer and how are they helping your organization?
Informer is used for many purposes including, but not limited to, creating reports that we use with Blackboard, interfacing with the bookstore, class scheduling, GL summaries, quality control reporting, and creation of tactical reports that are critical to daily operation of the institution in almost all administrative areas. Our Student Services Department uses it almost exclusively as its reporting solution.
How have your reporting capabilities changed?
Both ITS and our end-users work with it extensively on a daily basis (in fact, we installed it during our Datatel Colleague implementation and were quickly generating reports for their consultants to use; Informer made all the difference during that crunch time). Although we have another business intelligence solution it requires a data “pump” from our production system to a relational database; Informer allows us to report directly against our production system which makes it all the more useful and timely.
How has your decision-making process changed?
Quick access to real-time data really assists departments and managers in making decisions based on quantifiable results.
Describe your experience of implementing and rolling out Informer.
It was a painless installation. Entrinsik’s decision to incorporate Jetty into Informer was first-rate as it completely eliminates the pain of installing and configuring a separate servlet system; e.g. Tomcat. We run it on Linux and installation was completed in under an hour from download to finish; it’s especially nice to see a company offer Unix/Linux server installations that don’t require a GUI; i.e. “they get it.” Subsequent upgrades have been trivial to install, test, and release.
Our initial roll out was internal to ITS; we dug in and started developing the necessary linkages to our Colleague database. It wasn’t long after that we introduced some of our end-user techs to it and they were off and running. Since then we’ve continued to refine our configuration of Informer through subsequent releases; daily operation has been robust and trouble-free.
Would you recommend Informer to other organizations?
Without qualification. If you’re a Datatel Colleague customer on UniData it’s a must-have.
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