At the EDUCAUSE conference this year, higher education institutions and IT innovators met to discuss the trending higher education IT topics of the past year. These topics ranged from security to data to leadership. Charles Hunt, Director, Enterprise Systems at Auburn University, met with Today’s Modern Educator to discuss these matters and Auburn University’s data journey.
The overarching theme of Auburn’s data journey is having the support of people from the university and having vendors that are easy to work with, said Hunt in their session at EDUCAUSE. At the start of their path, Hunt commented that they had to “start from scratch” and first figure out the issues that they were trying to solve at the university. Then, the goal was to implement a data governance strategy and ultimately build a data warehouse.
One of the issues that the team at Auburn had to overcome was the extracts of the main student information system that often bogged the main system down. Changing these extracts would “require programmatic changes, which are problematic in and of themselves,” said Hunt. Afterward, they would have to be tested and go through migration processes. To solve this issue, they needed to simplify the systems.
Hunt mentioned previous attempts to start their data journey, but they were unsuccessful because they did not involve the right people. The difference between previous attempts and the latest success was the support from executive leadership, CIO, and Provost. Their support transformed the initiative and helped make it a success.
The data warehouse will help to eliminate data silos across the Auburn campus and establish an “overarching data governance set of policies and procedures,” said Hunt. Through partnering with data vendors, Auburn was able to go from proof of concept to a mock data warehouse and explore the features created. Features, such as snapshot capability, will be critical to the university, especially when it comes to reporting. The snapshot feature “allows us to take a picture of the data at a certain point in time and store it away. It’s very helpful to our reporting [colleagues] who need to know how things looked at a certain time.” There is also the ability to rewind through time as well, which is equally important for reporting.
Hunt commented on the project’s longevity with their plans to add more data into the warehouse from student information, HR, finance, and more. By partnering with vendors that made the process simple and easy, Auburn was able to transform their data usage with a data warehouse that will continue to help innovate the university.
To learn more about data transformation, click here.