Business challenge

Recognizing that not all school boards were funded equally, Compass for Success sought a way to make education data more accessible across the province to help schools improve student outcomes.


The company built a cloud-based data warehouse solution using IBM Analytics software to help schools identify drivers behind underperforming students and to support evidence-informed decision making.


for a 4-month payback

by deploying the IBM software

using cloud technology

to deliver analytics to schools across Ontario

and reduces expenses

for schools and administrators by accelerating report generation

Business challenge story

Calling for equal data access

All children, regardless of where they live or the size of their school district, deserve a quality education. This is an underlying principle for IBM Business Partner Compass for Success, an organization originally formed to help nine school boards increase their capacity to use data to make evidence-informed decisions to improve student achievement.<br><br>Diane Findlay, Manager at Compass for Success, elaborates: “The Ontario Ministry of Education targeted a graduation rate of 85 percent and decided that every school board should have a data warehouse to support that goal. But funding was based on a per-person model, meaning that small school boards couldn’t afford much.”<br><br>“We’re all about making sure that every single school board has the advantage of using the most sophisticated tools,” Findlay continues, “without barriers around cost, accessibility or resources.”<br><br>

“It would be impossible for anybody within the school board—regardless of their background—to do what Watson Analytics does.”<br><br>—Diane Findlay, Manager, Compass for Success<br><br>

Transformation story

Providing analytics to all

Compass for Success built a cloud-based data warehouse solution using IBM® Cognos® Analytics and IBM SPSS® Modeler software. “We looked at other products on the market and saw that they were just glorified reporting tools,” says Findlay. “We chose Cognos because it was the leader in data warehousing and analytics, and we wanted to make sure we started with the best tool possible.”<br><br>In April 2017, the organization integrated IBM Watson Analytics™ technology with the platform, a move that Findlay describes as transformative. “Watson allows us to correlate and triangulate data like never before and brings forward the unique personalities of the school boards. We can search for trends and identify the drivers behind underperforming students. It allows us to be a lot more efficient and effective so we can hone efforts and allocate our resources. To be able to stitch together data from external sources so easily has been transformational.”<br><br>

Results story

Realizing substantial returns

Today, Compass for Success hosts a centralized data warehouse in Toronto and uses the cloud to deliver advanced and predictive analytics services to school boards across the province. “By offering a hosted solution as well as a non-hosted solution, we have a scalable, robust system that both the largest and smallest school boards can use,” says Findlay.<br><br>According to a 2013 report conducted by Nucleus Research Inc., Compass for Success realized a 297 percent ROI1 in its deployment of IBM technologies, translating into a 4‑month payback. Findlay states that the figures are still relevant today, adding, “The reduced IT costs by using the cloud are significant too, as well as the end-user cost savings to report to the Ministry.”<br><br>Findlay concludes, “What sets us apart is that we spent a lot of time, effort and energy working with the IBM professional group to build the framework. We contracted with the best of the best, and it has served us very, very well.”<br><br>


Compass for Success

Founded in 2005 in Toronto, Canada, Compass for Success is a collaboration of 50 school boards and 22 First Nation communities across Ontario working together to build capacity to use data, with the aim of improving student outcomes. Through its sophisticated software platform, the not-for-profit organization provides centralized data warehousing and analytics services so that teachers, superintendents and principals can monitor student performance, offer informed guidance and help students succeed.

Solution components

  • Cognos Business Intelligence
  • Educ: Innovation in Research
  • Educ: Open and Aligned Learning
  • Educ: Secure and Flexible Infrastructure
  • Educ: Technology Infrastructure
  • SPSS Modeler

Take the next step

To learn more about IBM Cognos Analytics, IBM SPSS Modeler and IBM Watson technologies, please contact your IBM marketing representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following websites:,,

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