Treehouse Software Customer Case Study:
Broward Community College
In today's environment of declining funding, academic institutions need to ensure that they are delivering the right programs and delivering them cost-effectively. This kind of analysis and decision-making requires information -- information on applicant status, program popularity, class enrollment, and variations between campuses.
The following is a recent discussion between Patti Barney, Associate Vice President of Information Technology at Broward Community College, and a Technical Representative for TSI.
Patti, please tell us a little about Broward Community College.
Broward Community College provides higher education and technical and occupational training for the citizens of Broward County, Florida. As the first public higher education institution in the county, Broward Community College functions as the principal provider of undergraduate higher education for the residents of Broward County.
Broward Community College is part of the Florida Community College Software Consortium, (F.C.C.S.C.).
What kind of legacy database system is in use at Broward?
Broward Community College has mainframe-based administrative databases using ADABAS.
What are some issues you've encountered at Broward?
I can't remember the last meeting I attended where data access and reporting did not come up as a major topic for discussion. It seems as though every department entity needs a report of some kind or a data transformation process to facilitate better decision-making within their respective business units. We were swamped with one-time report requests and data analysis initiatives that we could not support without additional programming resources. When no funds were made available for these resources, we provided short-term temporary solutions that empowered enterprise users to access data, but it required a certain level of technical competency. These enterprise users were struggling with the ability to transform raw data into business knowledge for more informed decision-making. It was obvious that we needed to have a better decision support system in place to provide access to enterprise data for Web-based applications, statistical analysis, and elaborate reporting.
The technological and human challenges posed in providing access to this information were overwhelming. To serve our diverse group of end users, from the Provost and the President's office to enrollment management officers, and even faculty department heads, a creative approach was needed.
What kind of strategy was developed at Broward?
One of the highest prioritized strategic technology initiatives at Broward Community College is Business Intelligence - providing access to data to help enterprise users make better business decisions. Two of the guiding principles used to develop technology initiatives at Broward Community College to achieve its strategic vision are:
Information technology and business units will work together to identify challenges and opportunities, and then resolve them through partnership and communication.
We will free resources to concentrate on providing value-added services by outsourcing technology services and/or collaboration with other entities when advantageous.
Using these principles, we asked the F.C.C.S.C. to conduct a needs analysis of the member schools, research and evaluate technology solutions, and recommend an appropriate statement of direction. Based on the fact that all of the member schools in this consortium are using the same data elements and transactional processes to run their mission-critical enterprise applications, but each requires unique components of data for decision making, it was necessary to find a flexible solution that would propagate and synchronize data based on user defined variables and accommodate a variety of "data mart" implementations. We could not simply hire more programmers or offload data in the same format used for transactional processing because the enterprise users would need to learn the relationships and structures of several hundred-system files.
How did you come to choose the TSI solution?
After assessing individual needs and reviewing several solutions, the F.C.C.S.C. recommended the tRelational and DPS products from Treehouse Software as the consortium solution for transferring ADABAS-to-RDBMS. The schools could then "plug-in" any standard RDBMS approach to business intelligence and enterprise reporting.
What is Broward's implementation?
Broward Community College decided to take the lead role with the consortium and partner with Treehouse and Oracle to implement a business process design and proof of concept for an enrollment management data mart. Initially, the college implemented ORACLE 8i in a production environment to support Web-based student applications and SQL queries, where the programmers wrote mainframe data extracts to import the necessary legacy data into ORACLE database structures. We had no comprehensive tools for data modeling, schema design and data propagation.
How does Oracle Discoverer fit in?
Oracle Discoverer is a query and analysis tool that allows users to populate business areas by using a wizard-based interface.
Business intelligence is most successful when end users are presented with information in a business-oriented way that shields them from the complexities of the data structures themselves. Broward's IT staff looked to Discoverer to deliver a data mart interface that met this critical success factor. In addition, Discoverer's sophisticated features for filtering and summarizing information and enhancing its presentation enabled the delivery of a powerful, highly-customizable, and attractive (yet easy-to-use) application.
Far more than a set of predefined and static reports, the application can be personalized and extended in order to answer both anticipated and unforeseen information needs.
What has the TSI solution meant to Broward?
The Treehouse ADABAS-to-RDBMS solution has solidified our investment in Software AG products at Broward. We can now easily transfer ADABAS data to ORACLE for business intelligence and Web applications, while continuing to benefit from our robust, high-performance ADABAS-based OLTP administrative applications. We use several purchased packages written specifically for ADABAS, and we can now have confidence that these packages will continue to serve our needs well into the future.
What future uses do you envision?
The overall future goal is to collectively share these "data mart components" that are developed by each of the consortium schools and make tremendous progress toward the implementation of a strategic enterprise Data Warehouse (implemented in manageable increments!).
Other items on the list include integration of services, Web-based applications, reporting, business intelligence, statistical data analysis, imaging, and document delivery.
By partnering with TSI and Oracle, Broward Community College met its goal of selecting, modeling, and transforming legacy data sources to support a responsive, user-friendly decision-support application. This allows the college to turn raw data into business knowledge using industry-leading tools and pragmatic, proven methods.