Business challenge

At the American University in Cairo (AUC), information was scattered in data silos, making it difficult to apply. The university needed a new BI and analytics platform that could support decision-making and decentralize data.

Transformation

AUC deployed Db2 Data Warehouse on Cloud software as a central data hub to host data from the siloed systems, and the Cognos Analytics offering to visually represent the information and uncover hidden patterns.

Results

Eliminates manual data processing

lowering the chances of human error

Reduces data collection and reporting times

from weeks to minutes

Improves decision-making capabilities

with the help of visual representations of the data

Business challenge story

Picking up the pieces

Students come from more than 60 countries around the world to attend AUC’s state-of-the-art, 260-acre New Cairo campus in Egypt. They learn critical thinking and creative solutions that take their education beyond the classroom and into the community. Through research, intellectual and creative expression, and community service, AUC is committed to exploring the challenges that confront Egypt, the region and the world.

However, this vision is challenged if the university’s information structure is not sturdy and robust enough to support timely, informed decision-making. AUC has invested heavily in building its information infrastructure and introducing modern ERP systems. This emphasis on technology ensured that mission-critical and precious data was stored in well-structured formats and facilitated the automation of its various business processes. Over time, these systems have continued to amass large amounts of data.

However, applying this large volume of data to generate insights has been continuously placed on the back burner. The results have been inconsistencies, redundancies and many different versions of the truth. Moreover, the manual process AUC relied on took weeks to produce data and was prone to human error. By the time the information arrived, it was too late — the decisions were made.

AUC sought a BI platform that would support timely and informed decision-making, decentralize data and provide an output that was visual and diverse.

We diligently scanned the market to identify the suitable technology provider, governance mechanism and skill set. To make sure we had the most suitable solution, we conducted extensive research and a solid proof of concept.

Iman Megahed, Chief Strategy and Knowledge Officer, the American University in Cairo

Transformation story

A single, consolidated view of data

Any strategy designed to unify AUC’s data silos had to begin with a harmonious system that required no manual intervention and could automatically produce assembled, comprehensive data.

“Institutional effectiveness is centered around transforming institutions using a data-centric and information-driven decision-making process. Data, information and knowledge are at the heart of it all,” explains Iman Megahed, Chief Strategy and Knowledge Officer at AUC.

The solution also needed to present the data in multiple mediums and a variety of visual ways, such as dashboards, statistics and analytics. AUC is a not-for-profit university with limited resources, so its solution needed to reduce overhead and be easy to train personnel on across the entire system.

AUC selected IBM to deliver a full-stack solution consisting of IBM DataStage®, Cognos Analytics and Db2 Warehouse on Cloud offerings. Using IBM technology, the university was able to improve data collection speeds and consolidate data fragments from different ERPs, allowing it to formulate a 360-degree view of its constituents — students, faculty and alumni — for the first time.

“After all the efforts the BI team makes, it immediately pays back when you walk into a meeting to find the provost opening a dashboard on faculty or students, fully trusting the numbers and making decisions based on it,” says Heba Atteya, Senior Director of Business Intelligence and Data Analytics at AUC.

Our board of trustees has been calling for more informed decision-making for a long while. So, when we implemented the long-awaited infrastructure successfully, in limited time and with limited budget, they were very impressed with the results. It was clear we were on the right path with huge potential ahead.

Iman Megahed, Chief Strategy and Knowledge Officer, the American University in Cairo

Results story

One version of the truth

It used to take AUC weeks and an immense amount of manual intervention to get data results. Now, it takes just minutes. Data is no longer scattered across several data silos. The Cognos Analytics and Db2 Warehouse on Cloud solutions eliminated the varied, detached systems so that AUC can use one fast, comprehensive analytics platform.

Even though BI is a long journey for AUC, the beginning was intense and promising. The move was celebrated and acknowledged by many on campus. Not only did it address the need for an effective infrastructure to support the decision-making process, but it also had several indirect effects on the performance of several units on campus.

The early BI results included a gradual shift of the organizational culture to a more evidence-based decision-making process; an enhancement of data quality and governance, and a diminishing of the effect of silos with more built-in transparency; a transformation of the university at its core and an emphasis on the need for change; and an increase in confidence and alignment at all levels of management with the creation of one point of truth that consolidates the university’s views and directs common action.

Fundamentally, the successful implementation of BI at AUC has played a significant role in transforming a 100-year old university to move toward a more proactive, modern higher education institution in every aspect of its management and operation.

Stakeholders can sit in meetings, have a discussion, review data and immediately make informed decisions based on quantitative information instead of relying on conjecture. “Having information available as part of the decision-making process makes everything clear, and you no longer need lengthy discussions or debates about what people think,” explains Megahed. “It’s just a fact. We no longer question or ask or suggest, it’s just there.” Participants can go into any discussion with readily available facts, instead of theories and opinions, and decide without waiting. Stakeholders can now be proactive instead of reactive, which supports a higher quality of education.

The new data infrastructure yields yet another business benefit for AUC. The university can use this new solution to glean more than just academic statistics; it now can tap into social media networks to gather knowledge about its alumni. AUC no longer depends on just student, faculty and alumni information from its data pool. The university is looking toward the future and applying additional social network outreach, big data, AI and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Before implementing business intelligence at AUC, our focus was on how to collect and avail data needed for a decision before meetings. Now we have the luxury of sitting back and saying, ‘what do you want to see?’ And if it’s in our data warehouse, if it’s in our business intelligence platform, it is available in no time. It means AUC is really and fundamentally transforming to a more effective institution.

Iman Megahed, Chief Strategy and Knowledge Officer, the American University in Cairo

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About The American University in Cairo

AUC was founded in 1919 and is major contributor to the social, intellectual and cultural life of the Arab region. It is a vital bridge between East and West, linking Egypt and the region to the world through scholarly research, partnerships with academic and research institutions, and study abroad programs. An independent, nonprofit, non-partisan, non-sectarian and equal opportunity institution, AUC is fully accredited in Egypt and the US.

Solution components

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