Business Analytics (Cognos)
Education Affiliates Turns to Mainline for Business Intelligence Solution that Identifies Substantial Savings
COMPANY: Education Affiliates (EA)
HEADQUARTERS: Baltimore, Maryland
“From the improvements enabled by financial reporting alone, I estimate we’ll achieve 100 percent payback in less than one year, and 400 percent payback in two years.”
THE BUSINESS CHALLENGE
- Get a 360-degree view of our operations
- Enhance student outcomes and success
- Maximize operational and marketing efficiencies
- Enhance and streamline compliance
- IBM InfoSphere Data Architect
- IBM Cognos Data Manager
- IBM Cognos Business Intelligence
- IBM Cognos TM1
- Enhanced ability to monitor, manage, and optimize operation of 55 schools
- Substantial savings in annual expenses
- 50 staff days a year eliminated in preparing key compliance report
- 100% payback in less than one year, 400% payback in 2 years
The Business Challenge:
Every organization needs an end-to-end view of its operations. The challenge is how to join different data sources to get it.
Education Affiliates (EA) was no exception. The company, based in Baltimore, Maryland, serves 17,000 students at 55 school sites in the United States. The students come to EA schools to get real-life career training for high demand occupations such as nursing, pharmacy, dental assisting, welding, HVAC and commercial driving. These fields can open the door to a lifetime of growth.
To better serve students, EA wanted to be able to track them throughout the student lifecycle-from the beginning of the enrollment process to when they graduated and got a job.
Done right, a business intelligence implementation would enable EA to target its programs more effectively; monitor and enhance service levels to achieve better student outcomes and achieve competitive differentiation; drive down costs; and plan more easily for the future.
But first, EA had to integrate multiple information systems and deploy a data warehouse. It reached out for help.
Choosing a technology partner was a critical step. “When we evaluated business partners, we focused on who the resources were that that we would work with, and what their approach was to the project plan,” says Kristen Anderson, business intelligence manager at Education Affiliates. “We wanted to know what type of phases they recommended. The team from Mainline really made us feel comfortable with their approach. We were undertaking both a data warehouse and business intelligence implementation concurrently, and we felt that Mainline had the best combination of a planned approach and the resources to make us successful.”
The Mainline team recommended a solution based on IBM Cognos, including IBM InfoSphere Data Architect for entity-relationship modeling; IBM Cognos Data Manager to extract, transform and load; IBM Cognos Business Intelligence for dashboards, scorecards and reporting; and IBM Cognos TM1 for analytics.
EA had also considered other systems, but chose the Cognos-based solution. “We went through a pretty rigorous review process, including demos and feedback from our IT team as well as from business users,” recalls Anderson. “IBM Cognos looked more straightforward and user-friendly.”
Fast knowledge transfer
EA wanted assistance just with the initial implementation. “Our goal was to have Mainline get us started while we hired permanent resources for what would be a multi-year project,” Anderson says. “The knowledge transfer from Mainline was great. The way they worked with us from the beginning made report development seamless. And on the data warehouse side, the training they gave our warehouse developer was quick and easy.”
Four Mainline staff engaged with EA over a total of about eight months. The first step was to join three systems: a central database; the call center’s CRM, which was VanillaSoft; and the student information system, CampusVue. “This first phase enabled us to get accurate reporting for our initial interactions with our students,” says Anderson.
The analytics structure that Mainline put in place makes it simple for EA to monitor and identify specific milestones, and see how all 55 schools perform, Anderson adds. “We use the reports to reveal which schools are optimizing our results, and which schools have an opportunity to improve and better serve our students,” she says. “To date, about 70 percent of schools have improved metrics by an average of 40 percent year over year.”
In addition, for the first time, it’s effortless to see metrics broken out not just by individual school but also by program group, such as the nursing program, across multiple schools. “With the new visibility provided by the BI project, our executive team was able to identify substantial savings that we could achieve in annual expenses on the profit and loss statement, all while enhancing student outcomes,” Anderson says.
Scaling easily to add value
EA is growing its business intelligence platform. “In the year since we worked with Mainline, we’ve been able to double the number of information sources and tables in our data warehouse on our own,” Anderson says. “We appreciate the standardization Mainline built into our solution design. They made sure we use one well-defined process to update data or bring in new data from external sources. We’ve replicated that process many times, using the basic best practices that Mainline taught us.”
Shaving 50 days a year off reporting
As a regulated entity, EA is required to monitor its compliance with multiple standards. Previously, Anderson says, “it used to take two people two to three days a month to prepare a report that now takes one person just 15 minutes to run and check.”
Compliance is enhanced, and automating this report frees 50 days of staff time per year for more valuable projects. Many other kinds of manual spreadsheet analysis have been eliminated. “We can spend our time analyzing reports rather than compiling them,” Anderson observes. “And we can generate reports we wouldn’t have had time to compile before. The types of reports we generate have more than doubled.”
EA staff can also call up ad-hoc reports without IT help. The Mainline team focused on delivering a solution design simple enough to enable self-service report generation, Anderson notes. Use of the business intelligence system is expanding rapidly. Currently, it has 50 users with plans to bring it to 500.
100 percent payback in less than one year
“We’ve been happy to see how excited our business users are with reporting from the BI project,” Anderson says. “From the improvements enabled by financial reporting alone, I estimate we’ll achieve 100 percent payback in less than one year, and 400 percent payback in two years.”
The biggest gain is enhanced service levels. “The BI project with Mainline has given us a better way to track and optimize spending and efficiency,” Anderson says. “It’s another important way to ensure that we maintain quality outcomes for our students.”