Skip to main content

BI advice from Southampton Solent University

We were fortunate to have a visit from Neil Randall of Southampton Solent University last month.  Neil and his colleague Paul Colbran gave an excellent presentation at this year’s UCISA conference about their experience of setting up an effective BI service.  I invited Neil to visit Edinburgh to explain their approach to our team and to review our proposed BI architecture.

We began the day with Neil reprising his part of the UCISA presentation and discussing several points arising.  We presented our draft architecture, and then we discussed topics including how to structure and manage a BI service, which ETL tools to use, how best to model data, and how to integrate a data warehouse with relationship management (CRM) software. 

We had a very information conversation about “Extract, Transform, Load” (ETL) tools, which load data from source systems into a data warehouse.  Neil recommended we look at file-based tools rather than database-oriented tools.  Without this advice, we probably would have made the opposite decision, just because we are used to working with database systems.  We will now pilot a file-based tool as part of our initial project, before using this experience to inform our tender for a full procurement.

Among all the topics we discussed, sometimes a really small idea stood out as simple and useful.  One such was that Southampton Solent’s team has a logo that they put on reports derived from the data warehouse, to show that these reports are based on trusted data.  Analysts can use the reporting tools on other data as well, but those reports don’t get the logo, so people reading the reports know they may be more speculative.

We all found Neil’s visit interesting and useful, and we are grateful to him for taking the time to visit Edinburgh.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

2016 has been a good year

So much has happened over the last year with our Enterprise Architecture practice that it's hard to write a succinct summary.  For my day-to-day experience as enterprise architect, the biggest change is that I now have a team to work with.  This time last year, I was in the middle of a 12-month secondment to create the EA practice, working mainly on my own.  Now my post has been made permanent and I have recruited two members of staff to help meet the University's architectural needs.

I have spent a lot of the year meeting people, listening to their concerns and explaining how architecture can help them.  This communication remains vital, the absolute core of what we do and we will continue to meet people in this way.  We also talk to people in other Universities in order to learn from what they are doing and to share our own experience back.  A highlight in this regard was my trip to the USA last January.

Our biggest deliverable for the past year was the design of the data wa…

A new EA Repository

One of my goals since starting this job two years ago has always been to create a repository for architecture documents.  The idea is to have a central store where people can find information about the University's applications, data sources, business processes, and other architectural information.  This store will make it easier for us to explain our plans, to show the current state of the University's information systems, and to explain what Enterprise Architecture is all about.

It's taken a long time to reach this goal, mainly because we're often had more pressing and immediate work to be done.  The creation of a repository is one of those tasks that is very important but never quite urgent.  So I'm now very happy to say that we are in the process of deploying a repository and modelling tool.


This is the culmination of a careful process to select the most appropriate tool for our needs.  We began by organising several workshops to gather requirements from a rang…

A brief summary of our major initiatives

I notice that in 2016 I wrote 34 posts on this blog.  This is only my fifth post in 2017 and we're already three-quarters of the way through the year.  Either I've suddenly got lazier, or else I've had less time to spend writing here.  As I'm not inclined to think of myself as especially lazy, I'm plumping for the latter explanation.

There really is a lot going on.  The University has several major initiatives under way, many of which need input from the Enterprise Architecture section.

The Service Excellence programme is overhauling (the buzzword is "transforming") our administrative processes for HR, Finance, and Student Administration.  Linked to this is a programme to procure an integrated ERP system to replace the adminstrative IT systems. 

Enabling Digital Transformation is a programme to put the middleware and architecture in place so that we can make our processes "digital first".  We're implementing an API framework, a notification…