Elgin Community College Empowers End Users by Expanding Self-Service Reporting with Entrinsik Informer
Before implementing Entrinsik Informer in 2010, Elgin Community College (ECC) was significantly limited in their reporting capabilities. The college had been using Query Builder to access data within their Colleague® by Ellucian database (built on Rocket UniData) and Envision, a programming tool from Ellucian, to write custom reports and processes. Only a few staff members from the IT department and a couple business analysts were able to write queries and respond to end-user requests. Knowledgeable end users were unable to perform their own queries.
Single Data Source Access
Prior to ECC’s conversion to Microsoft SQL in 2013, users had to use Query Builder or a colon prompt function to access their Colleague database and were limited to querying this single data source. This complicated and tedious process presented problems, especially for users without specific technical training. “Users would have to input an exact prompt to bring back the data they wanted. There was no way to retrieve or save commands, so there would be a lot of manual typing just to view data. There was also no security around the data; anything could be accessed if you knew what to type in the prompt,” said Dave Prose, Senior Systems Architect at ECC.
Numerous IT Requests
Because end-users lacked the access and expertise to use colon prompt or Query Builder, user requests for reports would be funneled through an analyst within the department, with most of them sent on to an IT manager, and finally assigned to IT staff for completion. Without a custom version of Query Builder, staff had even more limited functionality including the inability to join tables. “We had become very dependent in HR on the custom version of Query Builder and once its creator no longer supported it, we began to encounter issues that required IT intervention on a frequent basis just to keep it up and running”, said Kristin Richmond, Director of Human Resources Information Systems at ECC. “We needed reports at very specific times and we couldn’t always count on having them, which was problematic.”
ECC knew they needed an easier to use, more effective reporting solution to support the needs of their staff. Users needed to slice-and-dice the data and get it to decision makers in the way that they wanted it. From an IT perspective, ECC needed a tool that would allow a larger number of users to access data without a lot of IT involvement and give analysts a way to do research into the data itself. “Analysts are the intermediary between IT and end-users so we’re usually the first to troubleshoot an issue. We didn’t have access to the colon prompt and we needed a way to access the data in order to fulfill our role at the college,” said Richmond.
Proven Solution for Higher Education
After receiving recommendations from colleagues at other schools and talking to Entrinsik staff at various user conferences, ECC decided to implement a trial version of Informer, and licensed the full version shortly after. After converting from UniData to SQL in 2013, ECC was able to use Informer to connect to many of their new data sources including Colleague SQL, the college’s time and attendance database, Colleague’s LPR database, and another internal data source. Users were immediately impressed with the ease of use and powerful capabilities that were now available to them with Informer.
Ease-of-Use Saves Time
“After licensing, about five of us in IT decided to meet weekly to learn the software and do mappings. That only lasted about a week; after that we stopped meeting because we learned it so quickly. It was a matter of days before we were running full reports. I got requests right away for a few specific reports and it just grew from there,” said Prose.
“From an HR perspective, we were very happy to have a stable tool that we could count on. I walked our report runners through it for a half hour, so it wasn’t a big deal bringing them up on how to use it. When we have a new user now, I don’t even really train them. It’s pretty intuitive,” said Richmond.
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Staff and end-users at ECC were able to see immediate results with Informer, and the college now has over 60 end-users who can run reports. The HR department alone has created over 300 production reports, and power users can now manage some aspects of mappings, create and modify reports, and schedule reports without assistance from IT.
Frees up IT and Business Analyst Resources
“Now, if a data request comes to HR it doesn’t have to go to an analyst to be fulfilled. A lot of them can be fielded by HR employees utilizing the reports they have available to them every day,” said Richmond. Additionally, many staff members are seeing the benefits of Informer without ever logging into the system. “We have people who are the recipients of scheduled emailed reports who view the data without knowing it’s coming from Informer. There’s no way to even count the number of people who use Informer without signing on to use it,” said Prose. The college also makes use of the ability to write files to a network drive which can then be published to the web or accessed by select users and processes, in addition to the live excel functionality that allows a user to refresh data from their excel spreadsheet, without ever having to login to the Informer application.
Users Can Customize Data Analysis in Real Time
With a centralized repository of reports, power users at ECC can now create and customize their own reports when and where they need them, and report runners have more access to their data than ever before, without relying on IT or their business analyst. Staff in IT can also breathe easier knowing the college’s data is safer. “When we build a new report, we just let our report runners know it’s available. We don’t have to worry about them being able to modify it or inadvertently running any commands. We can put it out there and not have to manage it. And being able to input a description is great as well. That helps the users know which report is the right one to run to answer the questions they need answered,” said Richmond.
Database Performance Monitoring and Data Integrity
Administrators at ECC can also easily keep track of any issues in their databases with Informer. IT has reports scheduled to run every hour to make sure there are no gaps in network connections or bad data getting into the database. “Our data is in much better shape than it used to be. I set up scheduled reports once and don’t have to think about it again. When new functionality is added to Colleague, I figure out what data it’s relying on and see if we need to add a report or criteria in Informer to make sure that data can be counted upon to be accurate,” said Richmond.
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About Elgin Community College
Since 1949, Elgin Community College (ECC) has been dedicated to improving lives through learning. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, ECC offers comprehensive degree and certificate programs, affordable tuition, small classes, and knowledgeable and caring faculty and staff.
In addition to its six associate degree programs, the college also offers more than 140 career-oriented occupational degrees and certificates, corporate and continuing education programs, and a full complement of pre-collegiate courses and initiatives. The college is also a great place to start a bachelor’s degree, earn summer credit, or begin dual admission with a four-year college or university.
Along with its Spartan Drive Campus in Elgin, ECC offers courses and services at the following locations: the Education and Work Center in Hanover Park, Streamwood Village Hall, and several public schools and libraries. In 2016, the college will open its Public Safety Training Center in Burlington. The college’s 360-square-mile district is home to 446,224 residents, 10,937 businesses, four school districts, and 33 communities.