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ITS re-architects data to fit the needs of campus

It’s no secret that data drives decisions in hiring, admissions, financial aid, grants management and much more. Understandably, schools and units across campus expect to have its data available to them when and how they need it. The Enterprise Reporting & Departmental Systems (ERDS) team, which was a unit of Enterprise Applications until April 2019, made significant strides this year to make that happen.

Getting what you need from data is not a one-size-fits-all scenario, so the team members did not begin this project with a solution in mind. They worked backward from the desired needs of each school and unit to develop solutions. Two common requests across campus were to deliver data tailored and packaged for them and to be able to have direct access.

Schools and units use InfoPorte, the reporting software for ConnectCarolina, to see operational business transactions, but they also wanted to aggregate its data in ways that aren’t available in InfoPorte. The team developed direct database connections to the reporting software tools used in schools and units, which was no simple feat because there isn’t a standard reporting tool for campus. The team is piloting connections in the Undergraduate Enrollment Office, School of Education, Gillings School of Public Health, Kenan-Flagler Business School and Finance & Operations, and the work is ongoing.

Re-architecting became an important ERDS buzzword. Data architects on the team designed data models for individual schools or divisions that reflected, in the simplest way possible, how one set of the school or division’s data related to another set of its data. Having the right data model meant that schools and divisions didn’t need to rework, or massage, the data they pulled from the Data Warehouse to run their analytics and create reports. They no longer had to build rules around their data because they were baked into the data model. For example, the Admissions Office can see financial aid and admissions data side by side and identify where resources can be allocated.

Preceding the re-architecture of data and direct database connection solutions was a hardware refresh. InfoPorte and its supporting infrastructure was being used by the School of Pharmacy, but looked like a good tool to deliver reporting for all of campus. ITS adapted the InfoPorte tool for University-wide access, but soon the increasing demands for data outgrew what the hardware could handle. The new hardware has more capacity and speed, and is sized to meet enterprise-level needs. It also means that updating the data warehouse from ConnectCarolina and other systems operates faster at night, leaving more time and space to move beyond transactional reporting. Enterprise Applications can now can look to the future, build new data models and tie data to ongoing initiatives at the University.

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