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How Informer 5 Enhances Ellucian Student Systems

Background

Colleges and universities consist of multiple schools (Business, Law, Arts, Science, etc.), each having many departments with substantial reporting and data integration requirements. These departments include the Registrar’s Office, Institutional Research, Financial Aid, Academic areas, Student Accounts, Finance, Admissions, and HR.

Many of these institutions run their operations using Ellucian Colleague or Ellucian Banner ERP systems. These solutions provide functionality that includes:

  • Admissions, scholarships, and financial aid
  • Student information such as inquiries, applications, student addresses, prior schools attended, SAT scores, grades, GPA, majors & minors, hours completed, and graduation information
  • Information on all classes
  • Accounting and finances, fixed assets, A/R, A/P, and vendor information
  • HR and payroll
  • Alumni information.

Reporting Challenges with Colleague and Banner

The file systems within these ERP solutions are known to have significant complexity. For example, Colleague is built on a UniData MultiValue database, which operates differently than SQL. It has complexity associated with the database schema, file structures, mappings, and more. As a result, institutions hire IT specialists to create standard and custom reports. Users still might not get the correct data in their reports because it’s possible to find 6 or 7 very similar field names. IT must also be involved if reporting and data integration needs to be changed.

Without having a user-friendly point and click interface in Colleague, analyzing data is often challenging for end-users, especially when the data is continuously changing.

Institutional leaders also face decision making challenges caused by the lack of standardized reporting between different schools and departments. What’s required is a reporting and data integration system that provides:

  • A single source of truth for data across the institution
  • Standard selection criteria for reporting
  • Consistent reporting formats.

Due to the challenges mentioned above, administrators often resort to using multiple manual processes. Many times, administrators create reports manually because data is in different systems or they don’t have access to the data. For example, some administrators print all the transcripts to identify and report on who is graduating, which takes much time. Not only does this significantly increase the length of time to create reports, but it also increases the likelihood of errors. They can do this in 5 minutes with Informer 5.

Creating a Self-Service Knowledge Center with Informer 5

Informer 5 makes it quick and efficient for people to access real-time data to perform analysis and produce reports and visuals that users can interact with by grouping, sorting, filtering, and more, despite these ERP systems having a tremendous number of data fields and complicated schema. Informer 5’s functionality and ease of use are also the top benefits that institutions appreciate.

Institutions quickly transition from being a heavily IT-dependent reporting environment to a self-service knowledge center with Informer 5. Management and staff find the new reporting and data integration capability a significant game-changer. They create reports, run them when they want, and share them securely with everyone soon after Informer 5 implementation.

People also find it much easier to share reports with their colleagues thanks to Informer 5’s ability to embed dashboards containing exceptional visuals. Many schools use dashboards for reporting because users find them convenient for getting all the information they need on one screen.

Automating Reporting Workflows with Informer 5

Informer 5 is an indispensable tool for departments to schedule their day-to-day work. For example, schools use Informer Reports to identify students who have their enrollment information either ready to be packaged for review or highlighted if the information is still missing. Reminders are then automatically sent to the students.

Informer 5 also makes it easy to merge criteria for reporting. For example, administrators at some institutions spend multiple days manually gathering data from different systems to create a report that identifies honors and probation students and drafting individual letters to those students. Informer 5 removes that complexity by automating the process. Users complete this process within a day by selecting the criteria for merging data, downloading the information into Excel, and then using the data with Word and Mail Merge.

Institutions also use Informer 5 to support their quality control initiatives by keeping departments informed if something out of the ordinary happens. For example, users can schedule Reports that say, “give me the students when certain information doesn’t match or where the social security number is missing.” Managers can also have a Report that isolates specific records that need to be reviewed instead of reviewing all the data.

Informer 5 Provides a Single Source of Truth

Colleges and universities often choose 3rd party applications to augment some of Colleague or Banner’s functionality, including:

  • Salesforce for contact management
  • ADP for payroll
  • Workday for HR/payroll
  • Slate CRM for Admissions recruitment
  • Raiser’s Edge for fundraising.

Information contained within these different systems creates the need for a single source of truth for reporting. With Informer 5, users no longer need to run separate reports in each application and then combine the output manually. Informer 5’s Datasets automatically blend this disparate data to create a centralized, curated data hub for analysis and reporting.

Informer 5 facilitates effective data governance by providing cleansed and standardized data that users can access to create their reports, such as pivot tables and charts.

Lastly, Informer 5 also supports an institution’s security initiative. For example, IT can lock down users with criteria that determines who gets access to what and when, and how much of it they get. IT also maintains control by authorizing users to access, generate, and share reports with confidence.

Summary

Some colleges still lack adequate and efficient reporting tools. Consequently, people who need information are dependent on IT and may wait many days, or even weeks, for reports. Alternatively, the ability to retrieve data from multiple sources, transform it and create a self-service reporting and analysis environment for end-users results in timelier, data-driven decisions.

Colleges and universities throughout North America have found Informer 5 to be the ideal business intelligence solution. Integrating data from Colleague and other systems to create a centralized data hub — one that is curated and secure for reliable analysis and reporting — is invaluable for not only management decision making, but also employee morale and productivity.

Learn More

To learn more about Informer 5’s many capabilities, please call 888-703-0016, or contact informersales@entrinsik.com.

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Informer 5’s Secure FTP Feature Saves Time and Effort

Informer 5 is well known for its powerful and easy to use analysis and reporting functionality. What’s less known is the fact that Informer also helps organizations improve efficiency by simplifying the process of transferring data between systems.

Informer’s Jobs Scheduling Feature Streamlines the FTP Process

You can easily generate a report that includes data based on the specifications provided by a vendor you’re working with, in the required format, and send the files via secure FTP to the vendor’s systems, with Informer’s Jobs Scheduling feature.

For example, at colleges and universities, teachers need to choose books for their courses. This process requires that course and session information, created within their Ellucian Colleague or Banner ERP system, be transferred to the institution’s bookstore database. The bookstore (managed by an external vendor) needs to know what courses are taught daily, so their software can show the courses offered along with the associated faculty.

Before Informer 5…

An institution’s IT team face a complicated set of tasks that include:

  • Generating the file based on the bookstore’s specifications that include, the term, courses taught in the upcoming semester, the professor, and other details
  • Uploading the file onto a server
  • Creating a nightly scheduled report containing the file
  • Writing a script saying, ‘pick up this file’, include FTP credentials with log-in and key, then send the file out to the bookstore’s FTP servers

The bookstore’s IT staff then logs into the secure FTP and pulls the information into their database.

With Informer 5’s secure FTP functionality…

Institutions can automate multiple tasks within one process. Without the need for a script, a simple schedule is set that says, “send this file out to that server and here are the credentials”. Every night the schedule runs automatically, and the file appears in the vendor’s servers.

California Lutheran University Simplifies the FTP Process

California Lutheran University is an example of an institution struggling with the issue involving a complicated set of tasks with their FTP process. Their goal in selecting a new BI solution was to eliminate those extra steps.

With Informer, California Lutheran University simplified the FTP process. They liked that a report can be launched and shared across departments in one straightforward move. According to Michael Graham, the Director of Administrative Information Services, “The registrar’s office was excited not to need to use FTP anymore. All they wanted to do was launch the report, export the report, and load it into Excel or whatever format they needed. The registrar’s office loves having the ability to put in a PDF, with our watermark, and they can give that to department chairs to show the data in many different formats.”

Michael has found it invaluable to have the credentials and all necessary information within Informer, so when he sends the file, he knows it’s secure and based on the correct specifications. As a bonus, Informer 5 also enables him to send files to a shared drive for easy and secure access.

To learn more about Informer 5’s many capabilities, please call 888-703-0016, or contact informersales@entrinsik.com.

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Customers Talk about Informer 5 Datasets

In the Informer 5 Dataset video, customers talk about how Informer 5’s Dataset features enable them to consolidate different data sources for better analysis and reporting. Their positive experience in consolidating multiple sources of data within Informer 5 is one of many reasons these customers recommend Informer to other organizations also wanting to streamline and improve operational efficiency.

Multi-system integration

Jessie Owsley, Project Manager at SME Electric Supply, a manufacturing and distribution company, frequently needs to generate status and management reports from the company ERP, CRM, and delivery systems. Before acquiring Informer 5, it was very time consuming to consolidate all the necessary information to create a meaningful view of the data for decision making. One of the major benefits that Jessie found using Informer 5 is that he can now pull data from these disparate systems into a consolidated Dataset within Informer 5 and report on any or all the information at the same time.

According to Owsley, “We have products delivered throughout the day and I need to see the status of the delivery. Keeping track of those deliveries involves both the delivery and ERP software. Informer has helped accomplish the task of keeping track of where those orders are throughout the day by providing the ability to schedule data queries and data refreshes as frequently as needed.”

Likewise, Delaware Valley University has data located in many different locations. These include, the Student Information System, health waivers, spreadsheets in a tutoring center, and student survey data. They pull all the data from these different data sources into Informer 5 where authorized users find it easy to query and interact with the data on their own. These users like seeing how the data sources, Datasets, and Reports are connected within Informer 5 because it makes them feel more self-reliant in doing self-service reporting.

Refreshing Datasets

Not only do customers applaud Informer 5’s agility in pulling together all their data sources into one curated Dataset, but they find tremendous value in the ability to refresh Datasets and queries based on the demands of the business for accurate, up-to-the-minute decision making. As well, customers talk about feeling more independent and empowered because they no longer need to rely on an ERP or CRM consultant, or anyone else, to produce custom reporting.

According to James Slizewski, Registrar at Delaware Valley University, “Informer enables us to operate not just more efficiently but better than we were before because we refresh our Datasets and data sources and bring user’s data in on demand as needed.”

Empowering users

A common theme mentioned by customers is the benefit of having more people access the data they own and without the need for technical training. This enables users to produce timely reports and share them with confidence and security.

“Informer 5’s Dataset functionality enables every department to have ownership of their data, to be able to join a bunch of our tables together, to be able to access what is needed, and to be able to limit access if needed for departments,” Melissa Sponseller, Business Intelligence Lead at Capital University.

Empowering users to do their own analysis and create their own reports using Informer 5 provides multiple benefits. They can see, filter and interact with their own data within Informer 5 instead of needing to transfer data into Excel or Access or relying on other staff members with report writing expertise.

Slizewski also mentioned, “Now, they can do that [self-service reporting] because we’ve allowed them to do it and trained them on how to do it. That’s helped us not only by saving us time as report writers but also it made the report better because they can see, ‘Oh wait I can bring in this other source of data which I thought I didn’t have the ability to do before’, and now they can add that in.”

Security – user access

Secure data is paramount to an organization’s business health. With Informer 5’s Dataset capability, a DBA-type person can create a very large set of data and compartmentalize it with separate views of the information that their end users can work with in a very simple and secure way. Not only does this eliminate the need to create separate sets of data for each person but it establishes strong data governance by creating a single Dataset with your rules that limit users to only see portions of the data depending on their role within the organization.

“Informer gives great control over who has access to which data sources and specific within each data source down to the table level or the column level, to say who can do what. The concepts of users within teams and permission sets are very granular, and they’re easy to manage, and that granularity allows us to have users directly access the data. I’ve got better control over the information than if I’m giving someone access to our CRM client or ERP client,” said Owsley.

To hear more from Informer 5 customers, watch the Informer 5 Dataset video

To learn more, call 888-703-0016, or informersales@entrinsik.com

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Entrinsik Informer Named Top Performer in Winter 2019 Business Intelligence Software Customer Success Report

Raleigh, NC - February 18, 2019 - Entrinsik Informer (www.entrinsik.com), has been named a Top Performer in the Business Intelligence Software category for the Winter 2019 Customer Success Report published by FeaturedCustomers. FeaturedCustomers is the leading customer success content marketing platform for B2B business software & services helping potential B2B buyers make informed purchasing decisions through vendor validated customer success content such as customer testimonials, success stories, case studies, and customer videos.

FeaturedCustomers evaluated all the potential Business Intelligence Software companies on its platform for possible inclusion in the report. Only 34 companies meet the criteria needed for being included in the Winter 2019 Business Intelligence Software Customer Success Report. Entrinsik Informer received an overall score of 93 earning a Top Performer award in the category.

The Customer Success Report is based on the curation of authenticated case studies, testimonials, and reviews from across the web, telling a complete story of vendors in the Business Intelligence Software space through real customer experiences. Scores are determined by multiple factors including number of total reviews, customer success content, social media presence, and vendor momentum based on web traffic and search trends.

The Top Performer designation is awarded to vendors with significant market presence and enough customer success content to validate their vision. Highly rated by customers, Entrinsik Informer consistently publishes high quality vendor produced customer success content and curate’s quality customer reviews from multiple third-party sites.

The full report, along with Entrinsik Informer’s profile, which includes detailed product scorecards is available for you to download here:

"This marks the 2nd year FeaturedCustomers’ Customer Success Report has focused on business intelligence tools and the 2nd year Entrinsik has been recognized for Informer’s market-leading business intelligence solution and dedication to delivering the highest-level in customer support,says Doug Leupen, President and CEO at Entrinsik.

About Entrinsik Informer:

Entrinsik Informer 5 is a robust, extensible data discovery and analytics platform that simplifies the process of accessing, cleansing, blending, and analyzing on-prem and cloud data. Based on a single web-based platform, Informer 5 makes it easy for organizations to aggregate disparate data to create a cohesive, curated, governed data hub for self-service data analysis. Because of its open-source API-based architecture, Informer easily integrates with various CRM, ERP and enterprise systems within various industries including Higher Education, Insurance, Manufacturing & Distribution, Healthcare, Public Safety, Not-for-Profit, Government, and many others.

About FeaturedCustomers:

FeaturedCustomers, the world’s only customer reference platform for B2B business software & services, helps potential B2B buyers research and discover business software & services through vendor validated customer reference content such as customer testimonials, success stories, case studies, and customer videos. Every day their platform helps influence the purchasing decisions of thousands of B2B buyers in the final stages of their buying cycle from Fortune 500 companies to SMB’s. For more information, visit their website.

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Functionality That Differentiates Informer 5

Entrinsik’s data analytics and BI platform, Informer, radically simplifies the process of accessing, cleansing, blending, and analyzing disparate data by using a single platform to create a cohesive, curated, governed data hub for self-service data analysis across organizations. Informer facilitates self-service reporting using Informer Datasets and Filtering. Informer minimizes self-service reporting errors because you are starting from a common baseline of curated data – a Dataset within Informer. The platform also facilitates collaboration which enables people to comment on reports, share insights, and more. There are several areas of functionality that our customers find highly beneficial and that differentiate Informer from other self-service reporting solutions.

  • Saved Filters. If you can look at a Dataset and write a filter – which you can do easily with Informer – you can save that filter to use when creating a report. The filter you create for the Dataset represents important criteria you’ve established for pulling in the data you want within your Dataset. Maybe you need “current transactions for today” or “transactions of employees that live in a certain state.” Such filters are available to all users that have access to the dataset. You can define very complicated filters for users and they simply add them with a couple of clicks.
  • Informer Discover. Informer’s Discover feature is ideal for self-service reporting. Often, users have a specific question to ask of their data. They log on to the reporting tool, get the answer, and they are done. However much of the time, users don’t have a finite question to ask; they want to see significant trends or groupings in the data but may not know where to start looking. Discover solves that by enabling you to click on specific columns like “state” and “order amount,” and Informer immediately displays charts relevant to those aggregations. Users then have an immediate visualization to interact with to help tell if those aggregations are significant.
     
    For example, let’s say you click on a state and get a distribution for all the orders for the last three days, and the numbers are the same per state. Maybe the geographic distribution for those orders is not significant, but maybe in your business plan you’re spending marketing dollars evenly across certain states per capita. You see sales are a lot better in one of those states and click on that state and see the numbers are skewed a lot more there. Well, you’ve just piqued your curiosity and start thinking this is something to investigate. You may even find it worthy of a report, all by simply clicking the button and immediately viewing the trend. People may not necessarily know what questions to ask when conducting data analysis. That’s not unusual with self-service reporting. However, the answers they start seeing with Discover may stimulate additional questions to ask.
     
    If you click on sales people in Discover, you may notice their sales are spiking up. From there you can further aggregate, or drill down into the data, even map the orders. Discover makes it easy for you because you can simply check a box and instantly see those aggregations.
  • Informer Collaboration. Another differentiator is Informer’s collaboration functionality. Maybe you want people to view your data, but you don’t want everyone looking at it because the information might not be ready for everyone to review. With Informer’s sharing capability, you can do that. For example, I may be a member within an Informer Team but I may not know anything about a particular Dataset. Maybe I started clicking some of the check boxes in Discover and think, “Wow, Bob’s sales are through the roof so I’m going to create an Informer report and keep it within my Team. I’m also going to send a comment to the Team and say, ‘this needs further exploring, but my database expertise isn’t as good as some of you. Can you look at this with me and see if there’s a way to tweak this to provide an answer for why Bob is doing so good?’”.
  • Single Source of Truth. Given Entrinsik’s many years of designing and supporting BI and reporting software, we found that self-service reporting is both a blessing and a curse. For example, someone might start thinking they’re getting solid answers on a database query they’ve written to answer a certain question. Other people might be running different queries to try to get the answer to the same question. Ironically, quite often the answers differ. Who is right? Maybe the reason the results differ is because in one person’s query, practice orders and refunds are eliminated from the set of current orders; one user knows about those nuances, whereas another might not. Having these two sets of numbers out there, and carrying equal weight, can lead to inconsistencies in the overall analysis of company data.
     
    Informer solves this problem by putting the power in your hands to curate data, so you can make sure people see what they need to see. When your Informer Dataset is curated by someone who understands its value of providing a single source of truth, you eliminate a lot of situations like, “My numbers didn’t come out the same as Bob’s numbers; why is that? I just spent countless hours trying to figure out why that is.”  Unproductive time and money wasted on people spending time trying to reconcile different answers is eliminated with Informer’s curated Datasets. With Informer Datasets, you’ve now got a single source of truth where you can say, “I’m going to make a Dataset of current orders and this is it, and anyone who wants to report on orders uses this Dataset”. That delivers ROI to your organization.
     
    Another reason a curated Dataset is preferred is that no database table that I’ve ever seen has perfect data in it.  There are always transactions that are entered wrong and there are always rows that don’t belong — they still exist because in the past, we ignored them. People will also tell you they take data from a reporting tool, dump it into Excel, and within Excel, they eliminate the rows that are wrong. There is a better way!  The Informer Dataset can be “that Excel place” where you toss out the junk. One of the common uses of Informer is for people to find bad data in a database and cleaning it up.
     
    Here’s a hypothetical example:  I’m the one who knows how to create Informer Datasets in our organization and I’m going to create a Dataset based on how people are using Excel spreadsheets. I talk to people and we all agree this is what the current orders and corresponding Dataset needs to be. So, I write my query for current orders and I’ve also been told by Joan in Accounting “You have to eliminate all the orders with ‘Type X’ because those aren’t real orders”. So, I add within my Dataset the following criteria: ‘take out type X’. And she also says take out all the orders that have negative values because those are also junk. So, I add that to my criteria.  And maybe there are a combination of fields that can’t be done with a query, however it can be done with an Informer Data Flow step.
  • Data Flow. A Data Flow is simply the stream of data from an initial source, often a database query, into the final Informer Dataset. A flow step is an operation that a designer can add to the Data Flow. A flow step can restructure data, add to the data, calculate on the data, and it can also clean the data. Using flow steps, you can go through each row and say, ‘if this is true for this row, toss it out of the Dataset’. So, you can toss out certain records that just don’t belong. You can run calculations across columns that may span across multiple data sources. You can run multiple pass calculations. You can create scores based on multiple factors in a row. The possibilities are limitless.

 
In conclusion, with Informer, you have oversight and governance of the data, because the curator constructed the Dataset and the rules (Filtering and Data Flows) which were agreed upon. The result is, you have the “golden standard” of that data for everyone conducting self-service reporting. This maybe an ongoing process but people don’t have to worry about what’s good and what’s bad because the curation process takes care of that.

For more please contact sales@entrinsik.com or call 888-703-0016.

This article was written by Andrew Morovati
Informer Chief Solutions Architect

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