QCEC collects large quantities of data from a number of institutions, which need to be compiled quickly and accurately in order to produce budgets, forecasts and other reports for institutional decision-makers. However, QCEC’s existing reporting processes suffered from a lack of source system integration, requiring data to be manually exported from operational systems and integrated using a range of complex spreadsheets. These manual processes were error-prone and often resulted in delays or inconsistent results.
QCEC wanted to move beyond static reporting and allow members to undertake detailed self-service, ad-hoc analysis on complex data sets. It also wanted to streamline its overall financial forecasting and analysis processes through a single source.
Queensland Catholic Education Commission (QCEC) was challenged by time constraints in delivering accurate reports, and issues with integration on its existing reporting systems. It wanted to be able to accelerate report generation in order to provide business stakeholders with timely, precise information.
Working with Bistech, a long time IBM Premier Business Partner, QCEC deployed IBM Cognos® Business Intelligence 10 and IBM Cognos TM1® software to create a centralised information management platform. Cognos software provides much richer and more consistent insight into student enrolment trends, national assessment program data and demographics, as well as financial data forecasting.
Inefficient manual processes
The Manager of ICT Planning and Information Services at Queensland Catholic Education Commission, explains, “Sometimes it could take us months to put the data together, which had a severe impact on vital decision-making procedures. Our stakeholders simply did not have the information they needed to support their various initiatives.” Additionally, all ad-hoc reporting was performed through live transactional systems, which significantly affected system performance.
The ICT department was largely responsible for the compilation and distribution of static reports, a time-consuming activity which distracted them from other important duties. QCEC also used a small number of limited reporting modules that had been custom-developed for its in-house program information management system (PIMS), but these did not deliver the level of analysis that the organisation needed.
Streamlining data analysis and reporting
In 2009, QCEC approached IBM Premier Business Partner Bistech about developing a solution that would allow it to improve information management, reporting and analysis processes and financial forecasting capabilities across its operations. In response, Bistech drew up a business intelligence solution roadmap that provided strategic direction and best practice advice on how to undertake a successful performance management initiative.
As a result of that roadmap, QCEC – with help from Bistech – implemented IBM Cognos Business Intelligence 10 and IBM Cognos TM1 software, using it to create a centralised information management platform.
“With Cognos, we have been able to develop reporting and analysis components that draw data from PIMS and other sources,” says the Manager of ICT Planning and Information Services. “The various phases of the business intelligence roadmap developed by Bistech also delivered cubes and reports that provide much richer and more consistent insight into student enrolment trends, national assessment outcomes and demographics, as well as financial data forecasting.”
The deployment of financial data to users in all parts of the organisation has enabled QCEC to gather and share data across operations more easily. This data is being used in ways that were not envisioned before, since the original limitations of spreadsheets no longer apply. For example, QCEC now uses the consistent data gathered by the Cognos solution to formulate a number of different funding models for the Queensland Catholic Schooling sector, enabling it to plan for changing circumstances more effectively. The data is also used to conduct “what if” scenario analysis around funding distribution to various schooling authorities, helping QCEC assess the probable effects of changes in policy.
Faster, more accurate reports
With IBM Cognos software, QCEC has gained improved ad-hoc analysis capabilities and a single, centralised platform for management of financial and operational information. This enhances its ability to analyse the resourcing profiles of different schools and better inform funding policies. It can now provide schooling authorities with data sets that are relevant to their specific sector, as well as data sets for the state and national levels.
The data that is now surfaced through IBM Cognos 10 and Cognos TM1 helps QCEC to drive a more granular approach to program management. For example, the Bus Fare Assistance programme now has the capability to effectively analyse and forecast reimbursement thresholds for payments to parents whose children travel to school using public transport. QCEC is also able to turn around requests for information from external parties in considerably shorter timeframes than before.
In some instances where datasets could have taken months to put together, reports can now be generated in a matter of days. “We are able to deliver reports much more quickly, and the entire reporting process has become much more effective,” remarks the Manager of ICT Planning and Information Services. “Now business users can directly access the reporting tools they need, instead of depending on the ICT department. This has allowed greater ownership around all aspects of data quality, control and distribution, and also freed up ICT staff from time-consuming data distribution activities, enabling us to focus on more critical tasks.”
Moreover, data quality has significantly improved following the implementation of IBM Cognos software. Any issues or errors are now exposed at the outset, allowing for immediate rectification. As the Manager of ICT Planning and Information Services notes, “We can now be more confident that the information we provide to key stakeholders is accurate, which in turn helps to drive better decision making. Reducing the amount of time spent validating data also gives us more scope to concentrate on data analysis itself.”