Information Strategies Event RSC / UEL July 2014

31 July 2014 finds me at a Jisc RSC hosted event exploring Information Strategies and associated issues for the HE and FE sector. Hosted by UEL and arranged by Martin Sepion and Julian Bream of Jisc RSC London.


I’m joining a diverse set of people from Enterprise Architect, Data Architect, Heads of Enterprise Solutions, Chief Information Officer and that ilk. I’m presenting a session on our Jisc / HESA Business Intelligence project later this morning. My own aims are to raise awareness of the initiative and gather feedback on the sorts of issues people need to address in order to design and implement an Information Strategy and what linkages there may be to the proposed National BI Service Jisc are developing with HESA and HESPA.

Feels like I’m in the right room.

Martin Sepion (Jisc RSC London)
Jisc RSC London have been working with UEl on developing and implementing an Information Strategy.

Martin described a common scenario of data flow throughout an education provider and how this might be optimised. This throws up a significant number of barriers with procurement being a key issue along with many others such as staff skills, vision and strategy (collective).

How do you know whether your information systems are doing a good job? A self assessment process was designed which sounds very much like a variation on the Jisc Strategic ICT Toolit. (LINK) I’ll chase down a link to this.

Gordon Millner (RSC East Midlands) described a data strategy template that has been developed and made available. He also touched don Dashboards, Visualisations and Big Data as issues and opportunities.

Me, Teresa, Jisc/HESA BI Service Initiative

Our slides are here. The session went well. The show of hands for BI definition fell heavenly between Gartner (top down) and Microsoft (bottom up). The Jisc definition failed to attract as single vote so one for us to revisit! We showed the Liverpool University Business Intelligence Case Study Video (a previous Jisc funded project) on YouTube (LINK). I asked the question – who has this capability? The answer was no one but UEL (also a previous Jisc funded BI project). This really backs up the notion of the Jisc/HESA BI Service offering a ‘leg up’ to those with little capability and the opportunity to gather momentum and evidence toward a business case for investment.
I asked the question ‘who here would like to have the Liverpool capability’. The answer not surprisingly was everyone.
Teresa and I posed 5 questions we’re seeking the answers to and will be gathering input on this later in the day;

1. In relation to your current role what is the most burning question that you would like to be able to answer which you are not currently able to? In short: What would you most like to know?

2. Why do you feel you are currently unable to answer the question you outlined above?

3. From your point of view, who in your organisation would be interested in having access to BI information?

4. Thinking about BI systems in your institution, where would you place it right now on a scale from 1 to 10?

5. We are planning to run a survey on maturity of BI systems in organisations. Would you be interested in participating, or know someone who would?

6. What sorts of services should the Heidi Plus offer
to move people along with BI agenda?

We compiled a list of likely responses to the discussions planned later, namely what issues will need to be solved in implementing an Information Strategy (and hence capability to develop and benefit from BI RE question 6 above). These could form the basis the sorts of services needed within the Jisc/HESA BI Project and repeat these below;

Strategy development and the technological enablers to allow implementation
Records and information management
Data quality assurance
Data governance
Master data management
Vendor selection and purchasing
Developing good data visualisations

Non-technological enablers to for strategy implementation;
To ensure dashboard data is embedded into institutional processes

Andy Cook (CIO UEL) and Gurdish Sandhu (UEL)
This presentation describes the UEL journey of Information Strategy design and implementation and is worthy of a look through. Here’s the presentation. Pay attention to the SWOT and the issues and timescales repeated below.



Several key points to this, the ones that struck me were on staff skills (and presumably culture) so linkages to Jisc ‘Digital literacies’, single point of truth (data warehousing / data cleansing) linked to key people (improve data quality by assigning ownership – Information Asset Owners, Information Asset Managers, Data Stewards), concentrating on key business areas and systems (research, finance, student, staff etc), proliferation of small Access / Excel databases (Andy has removed Access training for staff) noting people do this because corporate systems don’t meet their needs.

Group discussion findings
The groups were tasked with discussing related issues from what they’d heard today and based on the two key slides SWOT analysis and Delivering IS.
Here are the headline areas (ideal for a mapping to Jisc resources and a gap analysis)

1. How people use the data provided – skills and culture change
Attendee tips; self assessment based on KPIs via monthly management group meetings
Jisc resources; Digital Literacies InfoKit, Organisational Change InfoKit, Data Visualisation InfoKit

2. Embedding Information Culture, establishing a business case for a large investment, KPIs for the improvements BI brings
Attendee tips; aligning business acumen on enhancing institutional performance with key data literate people
Jisc resources; Business Intelligence InfoKit (building a business case)

3. Data Quality and how to assess how advanced this is in an institution

4. Siloed manual intensive data and reporting. Culture shift, top level buy in.
Jisc resources;

5. Master data and technical issues to assist the strategy implementation. Includes enabling technologies such as good wifi

6. Role of Enterprise Architecture in optimising and controlling the underlying systems required to promote Information Strategy implementation

7. Good information and records management as an iterative process that must be embedded as a cyclical exercise not a one off

8. Ambitious strategy to include organisational and external data but being realistic on time scale to help encourage a vision of what good information use can achieve

9. Cleaning up all the data, or just the bits you need

10. Analytics skills as reality – BI can be a big part of the solution and the problem – introducing a level of complexity that magnifies the problems of data literacy and the interpretation burden on other staff

11. Doing something of value in a short time period – moving to action to demonstrate opportunity and value, examples of what can be achieved to drive momentum, support and investment

12. Top down support to provide authority and break log jams impenetrable by those building the systems

13. Trying to do it all is akin to boiling the ocean, small steps to achieve highly visible impact could be helpful

14. It’s all about the value and the benefit and how to report that back to the business – high profile wins need to be celebrated in a visible manner. It’s not about providing the technology or bombarding people with information and systems that don;t meet end user needs. Top table guidance is important. Bottom up approach isn’t enough.

Last note from me – the organisers added their own report of the day here

National Centre for Student Entrepreneurship in Education

15 July 2014 and I’m in Leeds attending The National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE) Student/Graduate Start-up Support and Enterprise Talent Development Programme seminar (bit of a mouthful but bear with, it’s interesting stuff).

I’m involved in the Jisc ‘Summer of Student Innovation’ initiative.
We identify ideas for IT based enhancements to the student experience from students themselves, support them through a series of 3 day expert led entrepreneurship based boot camps, provide mentorship and peer action learning, run a showcase event, shortlist for potential ‘transition to service’ projects and identify partnership opportunities going forward to provide services to the Jisc membership.

See for the 2013 and 2014 initiatives.

So I’m hoping to see overlaps and perhaps identify opportunities…..

The sessions describe examples of what has been done in the North of England Region of NCEE and introduce the June 2014 Lord Young report ‘Enterprise for All’

Leeds Grand Depart

Session 1 – Benefits, Impacts and Learning from the North West Enterprise Champions Project Dr Simon Brown
The NCEE is an accountable body supported by the North West European Unit via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Delivery partners are Bolton, Chester, Liverpool, Salford, UCLAN, Edge Hill, Lancaster, Liverpool John Moores. A programme has been running since 2007, so in its 7th year with an extension granted. The programme aims were to work through University leaders to develop more entrepreneurial cultures in member institutions. The outputs would include addressing the low-level of graduate startups. Methodologies include;

    Enhance understanding of what it takes to create more graduate start ups
    Feed good practice into curricula and extra curricula
    Build expertise
    Enhance the regional economy

These were not seen as core aspects of University business. A key aim here is to make this so.

The latest phase has focused on 1353 pre-start assists, 266 new business, 333 new jobs.

Evaluations on the programme have shown;

That Universities with strong research excellence tend to engage aspirant entrepreneurs via extra curricula activities. Those with more vocational programmes tend to engage through the curriculum.

    Everyone is having difficulties in getting the messages to the students – whatever channels tried. Ditto for tutors.

Jisc have found that whatever channels are employed, word of mouth and social networking seem the most effective methods to reach students.

The timing of getting the messages across is key – posters are often prevalent, but students and staff interest window is peaked at certain stages and so ‘keeping the message going’ is important. Jisc is considering keeping the ‘Elevator’ (the site we use to collect proposals from students) live all year round with a window of selection so this seems appropriate.

‘Employability’ is being talked more openly in institutions from prospect to graduate and is a driver, however enterprise and entrepreneurship (which as phrases can frighten people off) should be a set of graduate attributes, not a career path.

Entrepreneurship needs to be stated in key University strategies, owned by a member of SMT, devolved through ‘Champions’, linked to business, celebrated and measured for impact. So n that sense not different to most new initiatives aiming to amend and embed institutional culture.

Session 2 – University benefits and impacts: The University of Chester experience Paul Kirkbright
Chester set out a strategic vision, a typology for innovation and enterprise, a survey (which found the vast majority of students want to work for themselves at some point in their careers), instigate a culture change programme, support the creation of a ‘society’ with;

240 students actively participating in enterprise activity
130 in pre start activity

And an Innovation, Enterprise and Business Support Model

Chester Model

Note ‘Create, Collaborate, Accelerate’ embedded in various aspects of institutional culture. The earliest stages are funded in partnership with Santander, the latest stage is to create a University investment fund which ties into Alumni – keep those entrepreneurs giving back to the region, get them to talk to the incoming students.

This is by no means a common approach!

Session 3 – Benefits, Impacts and Learning from the Yorkshire and the Humber’s Graduate Entrepreneurship Project Dr Kelly Smith

This is a regional project running from 2007 – 2014 and is now in an ERDF phase. Phase 1 created 274 jobs, 269 new businesses, assisted (in blocks of 12 hours of support) 218 businesses through 2554 blocks. I had a chat with Kelly before the event began, She is Head of and Principal Fellow for Enterprise at Huddersfield managing the student and graduate start up unit and advising on embedding into the curriculum. Kelly is keen on demonstrating the impact of enterprise in the curriculum leading to start ups noting that BIS have put up funding through vehicles such as the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurship (NACUE). Kelly also mentioned the ‘IDEA Award‘ – a programme seeking to inspire digital enterprise in 16 – 25 year olds led by the Duke of York

Aim; to provide the best enterprise and business start up support possible to students and graduates of the region.
Objectives; Promote entrepreneurship and business start up
Combine resources and best practice
Manage a broad framework of support activity
Partners are broad numbering 11 regional HEIs
Outputs; Phase 1; 20 SME assistances, 30 new jobs created, 50 new businesses created. Phase 2; 90 SMEs, 71 jobs, 44 new businesses

Benefits to members; a collaboration of trusted partners, ability to shape activity to own context, sharing of processes and practice (not competitors as supporting own students), demonstrable impact on beneficiaries.


ERDF requirements and continuation have been a major concern in the room. ERDF is reduced. Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are the replacement. New funding arrangements will be around January but a reliably to go through LEPs.

The role of an Enterprise Champion varied widely matching to institutional goals.

Enterprise for All report by Lord Young June 2014, Government response expected Q3 2014.
Of particular note the proposed E* awards for university entrepreneurial attainment, future earnings employment record (ties destinations of leavers with HMRC income), enterprise module for all students, enterprise societies, student business startup taught programme, social enterprise (it’s a good thing, rather than any recommendations).

“None of this is compulsory – it is just a start” – Lord Young

What does this all mean for Jisc and the Summer of Student Innovation initiative?
Opportunities for recruitment of potential projects (via ERDF and LEP regional consortia)
Curriculum content for summer schools (via LEP / HEI members and any Young Report programmes)
Linkages to institutional facilities such as incubators, mentors, courses, funding
Discussions through Kelly Smith and Keith Burnley (CEO of NCEE)
Funding collaboration / opportunities through ERDF / LEPs, NCEE, the ‘IDEA Award
Linkages to networks such as
The National Association of College and University Entrepreneurship (NACUE)
Graduate Entrepreneurship
Enterprise Educators
maybe AGCAS(?)
NCEE themselves

AUA 2014 Conference Business Intelligence Workshop

This week I, along with my colleagues Jonathan Waller, Teresa Tocewicz and Adam Hiles delivered a workshop on Business Intelligence in Higher Education. We offered to write up the findings for delegates and this is it….

Thirty Five delegates from institutions and agencies associated with further and higher education were asked to consider three questions and to write responses (as many as they wish) from their individual perspectives on ‘Post-It Notes’. These Notes were then stuck to the relevant section of the large piece of flipchart paper provided to each table and on which they had previously been asked to draw a giant ‘H’.


Delegates were asked to consider each of these questions in the order shown below and were given 10 minutes for each one:

How effective BI currently helps you in your role, or How you believe it could and should? (“the desired state”)
What organisational, or other, factors are preventing your institutions from delivering the kind of benefits previously surfaced? (“the barriers”)
What needs to happen within your institution to overcome the issues that are holding you back and preventing you from achieving the successful vision of BI you have articulated? (“ideas generation”)

Following completion of the 3rd ‘ideas generation’ exercise. Each delegate was given three ‘sticky dots’ and given five minutes to read all the ideas that had been suggested by other members of their group and to ‘vote’ for the one, or ones, which they felt had the most merit. All three votes/dots could be allocated to one idea, or spread around multiple ideas, based on their own strength of feeling for a particular idea(s).


Resources from Jisc to help with BI when back in the office

Slides from the Session

Keeping in touch
Subscribe to the Jisc / HESA BI Project Jiscmail list to receive updates from the team. We’ll set up a blog site soon and announce it there

The rest of this document is a transcription of each table’s Post it Notes and votes. As promised, this is now available to those who took part and other interested parties as a record of the discussions and views of those present and will also be considered by Jisc and HESA as part of the preparations for the new BI National Shared Service that is currently being planned.


Table 1

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Share milestones through dashboards
Define base data 
Very powerful systems
Fire people up to make decisions
Accurate data
Informed decision making
Clear limitations
 User training
Multiple systems
Data ownership
No end user consultation
Time and resources
Part of staff role?
Clear objectives
Engagement from all levels
Lead from executive

Table 2

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Provide data that academics recognise and trust
Time saving in long run
GIves consistent info and doesn;t make assumptions about what you need
Accurate data that can be manipulated to repurpose
Effectively displays results, simpl dashboards
Properly resourced planning team
Staff training
Easy to access and use the basics
For everyone – staff, students, other stakeholders
Timeliness of information

Inconsistent interpretation
Cost and resource issues
Intelligence to understand systems and results
Data dispersed in different systems
Politics of access to certain data
Cost of a reporting tool
Lack of flexibility
Understanding managers
Lack of commitment 
Commitment from senior managers and resources
Support and money for capacity and development
Collaborative working across whole organisation
Technical ability to convert existing data into accessible format by a central system

Table 3

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Team to provide and clean and monitor data
Access to research reports
Access to performance data
Quickly find detailed complex information
Mapping research income and student numbers year on year
Benchmarking against competitor university departments
Understanding departmental performance against plans
Corporate student satisfaction reports (KIS and NSS)

Not knowing what data is available to use or where to get it from
Lack of consultation with end users
Different databases produce different statistics
Too much time spent in populating reports
Glacial decision making processes
Lack of access to staff members, often restricted to senior managers
Planning department slow to produce information
Multiple dashboards unconnected
Accuracy of data
Lack of communication
Access to planning tools on several levels; senior management, faculty, school, department
Willingness to change and move forward
Planners to communicate what data is available and from where
Guidance as to which statistics should be monitored
Integrated systems
Better training
Better knowledge of existing systems and capabilities 

Table 4

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Student performance identifying areas for development
Student demographics
User friendly to all staff
Staff information
Visualisation of data
Quick retrieval
Organise data / decisions made
Consistency across the organisation
Partnership making
Well funded
One click results
Drill downable
Easy access
Identifes student performance and programme, school and institutional level and identify trends

System restrictions
Lack of systems knowledge
Handling non digitised information
Definition of progression and retention
Inconsistency between programmes
Departments competing against each other
Too many systems not connecting

Management support
IT support
One vision of data needs
redesign of infrastructure
Sharing of knowledge
Data quality management
Consistency of definitions
Real time simple reporting 

Table 5

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Greater initial cost outline diminishing as efficiencies occur
One repository for data vs multiple spreadsheets
Helps to improve processes – helps to improve planning / designing
Gives only relevant information i.e. no extras
Customisable – access all fields for user generated reporting
Make decisions on which grant giving bodies to approach for research income
Surfaces data to help with wider business planning
More scope for visualisation
How close are we to reaching targets
Live data
Make decisions on which industry sectors to approach for collaborations
Insight into tracking of deliverables
Mapping student conversion rates from enquiries to registrations
Understanding distinction between data at he micro (departmental) level and macro (institutional)
Benchmarks against previous years

Individuals control on data note easily relinquished
Cost of data systems
Lack of connection between planners / analysts and rest of institution
Time delay in data
People don;t understand how important BI is to their role
Inaccurate and old data
Not sure who to approach for the relevant data
Time lag on data
No synergy between existing data systems
Poor interpretation of data, not understanding the business
No support for collecting and analysing data

Better relationships between planners and users of data
Consult the end users not assume what is needed
Thorough training
Sharing of data and collaboration across stye sector
Exploring how BI is related to wider horizon scanning by Jisc
Central data warehouse 

2014 EUNIS BI Conference Discussion Session

The conference so far has been entirely plenary lecture based. I think we’re all looking forward to some new formats. First up we have an expert led discussion session. Our panel comprises Ora Fish, Stefano Rizzi, Bodo Rieger, Elsa Cardoso. Of the four I’ve managed to make contact with three regarding the work Jisc and HESA have planned on that national business intelligence service for the UK.

The panel are to comment on the following;

1. Critical Success Factors for BI in HE
2. Vision for BI in the next 5 – 10 years
3. Recommendations and expectations for EUNIS Services

My own comments are marked >

1. CSFs for BI in HE
Ora Fish – The CSF is down to the individuals involved in the initiative; their energy, adaptability, relationships and knowledge.
> Nice one Ora – capability of the team, leadership and their efficacy is clearly key. So what attributes does a successful BI service implementation require? What distinguishes this from other projects? Presumably quite a lot as this bridges the divide between IT and Business leaders, tackles cultural issues of data use, touches on records management and attempts to translate data into knowledge palatable to wide range of roles.

Hans Pongratz – agile systems and the business value they bring, how does it meet the needs of consumers (students, lecturers, managers)

Alberto – the content of the data warehouse – look toward employability of graduates as this is your final product
> absolutely true, but attributing graduate employability to a BI implementation seems a little on the tenuous side. Maybe here we’re touching on what are the data sources to assist in predicting employability, providing actionable insights and promoting the opportunity for people to take the actions. I quite like this as an alternative to analytics to predict success at University.

Elsa – People, strategy, technology and processes are the four areas. Ora covered people, map to institutional strategy, technologies should map to architecture, enhance and embrace processes to smooth the way

> Can’t faulty that as a response! From the floor a note of a Key Failure Factor being over reliance on a single person who became so integral the implementation became entirely reliant.

Steffano Rizzi – the importance of a functioning BICC and its role in data cleanliness and quality
> Definitely required capability but the BICC seems to me an ethereal entity comprising many different capabilities to smooth the way to BI uptake.

Ora Fish – The data warehouse is the key to success. Other system aspects can come and go.
> Isn’t that the case – the most difficult things are often a) getting your data (and processes) in order b) cultural change and people. Technologies merely enhance.

2. Next 5 – 10 years
A growth in demand and supply of data scientists capable of providing analytical services
> but also incorporation of data literacies in existing roles across the institution including senior managers
From the floor –
The UK Moodle community are looking (via University of London) at analytical insight across the 137 institutional Moodle instances. The panel are concerned about masking and security of data.
Analytical predictions for insight into likely employability is a capacity we might focus on as well as academic performance. Simply, based on student data exhaust across a range of indicators, what is the likelihood of good employability?
Ora Fish – Look to enhance the value we can bring to Universities, take the focus away from the technologies. More analytics, more ‘what if’ scenario solutions, better examples of Big Data value.
Stefano Rizzi – Delivery technologies (mobile), personalisation and recommendation services based on what others who ran this query did, collaborative business intelligence – a network of university consortia sharing data for BI
Incorporation of cross sector data to provide insight into future performance. In a nut shell analyse school, college and pre university data exhaust to provide insight into changes that could be made to enhance chance of success.
> Yeah yeah yeah…. Minority Report?! In the UK Schools already do a bit of this but pretty basically / badly. Do we really want to model success based on life experiences? Really?

And so my attendance at the EUNIS BI Taskforce 2014 event must conclude. I’ve a Eurostar to catch. It’s been a long old week. I left home on Monday and will be home tonight at 21.30. It’s Friday. I hope my presence here has helped others via the blogs. I hope the contacts I’ve forged are able to move to action with me and with Jisc and the Jisc / HESA BI Project.

It’s been emotional…

March 2014 EUNIS BI Conference Day 2 Session 1

It’s been a great event so far. Let’s start with a summary slide of the BI capability achieved at Turin – something for us all to aspire to….


I’m back for the start of day 2 where we’re hearing about analytics and predictive analysis.
A quick update on yesterday. I’ve agreed to get more involved with the EUNIS BI Taskforce. It seems we share a mutual aim of increasing maturity of BI capability across Higher Education Institutions. I’m now in touch with Elsa Cardoso to see what opportunities we can identify to collaborate.

I’m also in touch with Bodo Rieger regarding that large scale mature Cognos implementation he described yesterday and to explore the overlaps between our respective national data collections HESA in the UK and HIS in Hannover. Here’s a great summary of the national data collection system of HESA in the UK.

So on with analytics. Or specifically learning analytics (of which there is quite a bit of information on this blog).

Not surprisingly the Educause definitions were given an airing


and of course one cannot hear of learning analytics without mention of the Purdue University Course Signals system and John Campbell.

While Check My Activity from the University of Baltimore Maryland is a new one to me.

Here’s a shot of a smart phone app from University of Kentucky.


This reminds me of some of the work we had submitted to the Jisc elevator last time we ran the Student Innovator initiative. It’s just opened this year. It’s a great initiative tapping into the power of using students as innovators applied to enhancing the student experience through technology and linked to entrepreneurship as key graduate attribute.

There’s a lot of work from Educause available via their Analytics papers. I’m talking to Susan Grajek, Vice President for Data and Analytics later this month about the BI initiative and Malcolm Brown, Director of the Educause Learning Initiative in April.

Back to EUNIS and something that strikes me is the lack of concern on privacy issues.

Another key contact I’ve made here is Ora Fish. Ora gave yesterdays opening key note which is covered in this blog previously. She’s expressed an interest in the Jisc / HESA project. We’re talking about Educause Conference 2015 (of which I’m fortunate to have been invited onto the organising committee) and whether there should be opportunities to air some of the BI for HE issues there.

Exciting stuff…..!

March 2014 EUNIS Business Intelligence Conference Session 3

Next up at the EUNIS BI Conference it’s Targets, Implementation, Experiences, Recommendations from Osnabrueck University. Bodo Rieger and Sonja Schulze.

15 years of BI initiative to report here in 30 minutes. I’m strapped in and ready!

This is an IBM Cognos implementation over Oracle with 5 objectives;

Address all levels of decision making
Integrate qualitative and quantitative data
From all operational systems
Provide standard and analytics reporting
Support operational and strategic decisions

Not all have been met!

There are four user group targets; Students (seen as the most important), Lecturers, Faculty Management, Top Management.

A popular dashboard allows personal benchmarking by students against student exam performance updated when new results are added (not on demand).

student dashboard

One for lecturers here showing red where incoming students have a lower level of education and will need additional support.


Accurate predictions of likely demand for course registration from students allows forward resource planning. Decision support systems improve resource allocation by assigning scarce resources to students to assist in timetabling.

There’s something in here on utilising a mixture of visualisation, text and hypertext allowing query and presentation of the data. Another interesting feature is to ensure that nominated data owners are able and expected to clean up the data where errors are identified. The system has over 10K users (skewed as it has student access).

They started with analytics reporting giving all the suers cubes to analyse the data as people wanted. This was NOT successful. Standard reporting was the way to go. They’re now bringing cubes back in as readiness is achieved.

Here are some examples of strategic decisions

operational and strategic

Benchmarking is done using national data sets based on mandatory returns. This is a parallel with the UK situation and one for follow up.

They have an example of complex realtime modelling to optimally assign exam dates and rooms – smart predictive timetabling ensures students aren;t over burdened and room allocation is optimal.

Here’s the Osnabruck BI Maturity;


Here’s an example of success factors based on user acceptance

critical success

March 2014 EUNIS BI Conference Day 1 Session 2

Next up we have a talk on BI Maturity Models from Elsa Carduso of University of Lisbon, Portugal.
Elsa again kicks off with her own definition of Business Intelligence based on enhancing enterprise decision making capability. She also notes the distinction in time frame in that BI tends to give insight based on what has happened in the past. We also need alerts regarding real time present. In terms of future we’re into the realms of predictive analytics. Jisc did some work on this in 2013.

So, on with BI Maturity Models. Elsa states that these are usually used to analyse the ‘as is’ situation in terms of organisational (and individual?) capabilities to undertake BI. There are many BI Maturity models but EUNIS has focused on the OCU BI Maturity Model. I can’t find this anywhere other than on our site but I think it’s been updated since we published.

Reporting on the recent EU wide survey in order to give an indication of the As Is situation and identify gaps and hence potential offers to help out.

The survey had 66 respondents across 9 countries. 13 responses from the UK, 12 from France.
26% have no dedicated BI staff which maps well to the number of respondents having no BI capability! On profile of respondents 50% were from IT which either echoes that BI tends to start there, or that the survey was targeted that way. In the UK it went out through the University and Colleges Information Systems Association UCISA.

Anyway, responses aside, there are 9 dimensions to the model and 5 levels of maturity (see previous link for a diagram but below diagrams have summaries of findings). Elsa outlined the questions within the survey. I can’t find those but here’s the rational.

There are representations of the analysis for each country polled. Within that Jisc / HESA / HESPA BI project we’re considering how we can best use maturity models. Current thinking is we should stick with the OCU one and encourage UK institutions to create a picture of the ‘as is’ to give us a snapshot of capacity to assist different aspects of the project, as well as profiling out our potential customer base. I’m also interested in how we might work with institutions to play with the ‘to be’ state. What are their aspirations mapped to show how the new BI service can assist in the transition. Key to this I think will be something I’m calling satellite services for now. These will be broad covering advice, case studies, training master classes, working groups and maybe even on site consultancy offers.

Anyway, back to the survey. We’re being shown examples of survey analysis by country. It’s a little like Eurovision. Am afraid I missed a few of these (Germany, Finland to name but two) Elsa suggests benefits in delving deeper to determine why results are as they are. Here’re a few examples;



Sweden has problems with funding yet all respondents have each of the capabilities. There’s no indication of why.


France has a good deal of BI activity with non existent provision yet delivery and overall are high.


Ireland managed to make 8 returns yet has only 7 public universities. Some problem with the underlying data?! The picture here looks rather rosy, yet opinions varied in the room


Drum roll please as we reveal the UK;


EUNIS are keen to engage better with the UK. Indeed I’m the only British delegate.

March 14 European University Information Systems Business Intelligence Conference – Key Note

I’m very excited about this event. I’m currently working with the UK Higher Education Statistics Association (HESA) and HESPA the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association on a collaborative project. We’re planning on building a National Business Intelligence System for UK Higher Education.
We’re in the planning phase of that when along comes this event. The EUNIS BI Conference. Full program here
So this blog post may be a little selfish; rather than focusing on reporting the entire content I’ll be cherry picking tips and tricks and issues and solutions in BI implementation for HE.

The Louvre

More than half of European countries are represented here today. Three consortia of Universities collaborating on BI related initiatives have sponsored the event. Our top table are; Jean Francois Desnos (Eunis), Jan Madey (MUCI Poland), Ramon Grau (SIGMA Spain), Elsa Cardoso (University Institute of Lisbon Portugal), Michele Menvielli (Cineca Italy)

We’re already hearing about the needs to reduce cost, increase productivity, optimise budget and the opinion that BI solutions are imperative in helping universities achieve these.

The EUNIS task force plans the following activities;
Current state of BI in European HEIs (I know this is based on the OCU Maturity Model as my colleague Steve Bailey of Jisc InfoNet contributed)
Linked In Group, BI Maturity Survey, Case studies and Training sessions on specific topics (I’m interested in this as we intend to put on similar via a virtual national BICC (Business Intelligence Competency Centre)

Here’s a quick summary of Jisc involvement in BI

Jisc BI Journey to Date

I’ll blog the Keynote here and other sessions on different pages;

Keynote; Ora Fish – Practical Approach to implementing Business Intelligence in Higher Education (HE)
HE is a late adopter of BI. Reasons why are many and include the breadth of operations not driven by short term objectives, difficulties in KPI identification (though UK HESPA Group have done recent national work on this), lack of analysts and analytical culture (some of these in the UK and across EU but not the case in the US), years of service and loyalty to old ways of operation, academic freedom and complicated governance / over reliance on committees making change slow.
EUNIS Top Technology report (Feb 2014) has reported BI as the number one concern.
Ora outlines the readiness for change agendas with this slide;


Ora reports on the HEDW – it’s an Educause working group of 2100 people on data warehousing. I’m in touch with Educause so one for me to pursue. Looking forward the US is seeing HE BI job advertisements and more interest from BI vendors in the sector. Start with the questions is a message Gartner press. Here’s a great slide on the sorts of questions HEIs want the answers to.


On we got through the fragmented nature of data storage across silos of legacy ERP systems and that thee have not been designed for information retrieval and analysis. A data warehouse i defined as a solution to this, so a collection of data from multiple sources tuned for easy analysis for decision making. Orsa defines BI as the processes, tools, and techs required to turn data into information, information into knowledge and plans to drive effective business activity.

Little gem from Ora – How to measure success of a BI implementation? Look to volume and variety (bit not velocty as that would the the tree Vs of big data) of end users. I like this – in out national BI project we aim to expand the user base of HESA (and non HESA) data to far wider roles than current (tends to be information specialists). Diversity of your BI community is key!

So summing up for the Jisc project, seems as though we’re on the right trajectory;
1. Problems of data locations, accuracy and definitions – sorted by using HESA data sets (our Level 1 service), problematic when expanding to other non HESA data sets (our Level 2 service), very problematic when including institutional data (Level 2 plus)
2. BI as a programme not a project – yep
3. Leadership buy in, governance and sponsorship – at national level – check
4. Funding – tick
5. Technology – to be addressed
6. Change management, training and support – develop from our BICC

I think we also need to add here dashboard prioritisation matrix; wow factor / usefulness for competitive edge (and supporting evidence). We’ll be looking to BICC for that. Seems imprtant that BICC includes the consumers of BI – so the range of roles, the language they use and the questions they hold dear. One for our project there – diversity of role inclusion and effectiveness in prioritisation of dashboard and visualisation features.

Top tips on implementation approaches;
Plan Big, Deliver Small and Fast. Be iterative and agile in development. Focus on business questions to answer
Integrated data warehouse – Kimball Bus Architecture is recommended here
Star Schemas and conformed dimensions
Capture business meta data
Capture business definitions
Testing, Validations and Certification (What, how, when)
Rollout (What, how, when and what training)

Ora presented a few dashboards for specific roles. Wouldn’t it be great if we shared these for Higher Education by a Flikr account? At Jisc we made a start on this here. I’ll add it to the Jisc/HESA BI Project Plan.

Lastly Ora concentrated on Change Management issues. The big one of BI exposing poor data was tackled by procedures to raise awareness of inaccuracies and timescales given for correction. Sounds simple. Bet it isn’t!

Questions here were very much focused on institutional BI implementations. There was one on predictive analytics and Ora described student performance, so what I know as learning analytics, but said nothing much else going forward on predictions for enterprise intelligence. Scenario planning is still prevalent. Master data management also gets a mention.

David Willetts at the HESPA Conference 2014

Strategies for a successful University – David Willetts MP


Reforms are taking root, fears have been proved to be misplaced. UCAS figures conform record application rates (UCAS spoke yesterday and I blogged that). Double the rate of disadvantaged applications have been received.
All three parties have concluded that graduates must pay for the hE system if they gain high earning jobs. On removing the cap, courses should be available to all those wishing to take them (Robins report). In 2014 – 2015 places available are up by 30K and by 2015 the cap on student places goes entirely. The exact number of places taken up will be decided by supply of HE and demand. Of course we heard this before with Tony Blair setting a target of 50%. Willetts says this approach isn’t a top down target.
Damaging the quality of the teaching experience must be avoided. This is mitigated by students bringing the resource (9K) with them. The treasury is providing 5.5 billion in loan subsidy. On high cost subjects as band A and B (chemistry, physics etc) 185 million is being invested and more going into STEM.
The HEFCE grant letter is coming (much laughter – this is awaited with serious anticipation by members). Expect commitments to the opportunities fund, specialist institutions with overall cash increases in total resource from grant and loans. Also the ring fence for science etc will remain. There is a long term commitment to HE.
Continuing pressures to increasing effectiveness and efficiencies – Diamond is to carry on with further effort. This is Diamond 2 and I think UUK will be heavily involved with assistance from Jisc.
Pressure on pensions in Universities are ‘challenges’ that need to be ‘addressed’.
Willetts has had his ear bent over lunch about the data collection burden on HEIs. For Willetts the most important data streams are about teaching and teaching quality. Note for Jisc to help with student engagement and student experience enhancements with associated objective measures. The KIS is a useful step forward but it is only a start. Evidence and information on teaching quality needs more effort.
Willetts has requested a formal letter from Planners (HESPA?) to address their concerns.

Q. Decline in part time and mature learners – what is the policy response, the supply side may dry up
A. Lack of mass communication exercise on effect of fees and loans. Target has been to schools and colleges by recent graduates. Result is 18 year olds understand they won;t need to pay up front. Parents haven’t got the message. Part time and mature students are harder to reach. The loan scheme has been extended and the ELQ grant has been extended. Willetts wants to go further on this.

Q. Cap on fees but no on places
A. 9K gives a fair amount of headroom. No indication of a rush to increase this. The efficiency review will enable to focus on how much resource is needed to education a student in England today. That will feed the fee amount.

Q. Data collections and public information for students. What role for NSS, student surveys and student opinion in data collections?
A. Discussion with NUS reveals a well informed and legitimate opinion on real issues at universities that affect students. ‘Academically Adrift’ addresses that if we believe that university attendance is a transformational experience we should be able to assess this at entry and exit. This could be a national assessment of educational gain and could become important. Willetts suggests that universities ‘get ahead of the curve’ by looking into this.

Q. Are EU students free of the cap as are UK
A. Not possible to impose a cap on EU students. To get he maintenance grant students must have been resident in the UK for 3 years. Evidence to support this is actively being sought and this will be a focus.

Q. Impact agenda and REF – future research funding and the impact agenda
A. REF experts must now do their work. 2020 REF won’t automatically be identical to the most recent one. Some sort of impact in real world activities as a result i=of research are important. Willetts states that the metrics debate is back on the table. Analytics are far advanced of what they were. Could teh REF go international? Is the research agenda focused too much on atomised competition between academics. Does it support collaboration enough, multi disciplinary teams enough? The paradox is that the research environment is hyper competitive and designed by academics. The teaching environment isn’t anything like as competitive. Willetts sees this as an area of interest.

Q. Gender bias with boys falling behind girls (See yesterdays UCAS post)
A. It is a concern. Working class boys are a new disadvantaged group being behind most ethnic minority groups. Partly sue to the way that the school system has been constructed. Continuous assessment may favour girls. Career structures are an impact. Nursing and teaching ‘are clearly university based activities’ (though I wander why nursing has become so). Apprenticeships are not.

Strategic Planners Conference 2014 Day 2

I had to duck out of afternoon sessions yesterday to speak with Educause on potential areas of collaboration which was fruitful, but meant I missed HESPA content.
Back on it first thing this morning though between calls


This event has been so intensive there’s not time for a social aspect, so here’s a view of Warwick Castle;


Session 1
HESPA Updates
1. There’s a new HEPSA working group on Transparency and Increased understanding of HESA policy and practice. It has 5 broad aims, in summary to enahance HESA data collection and ownward use. Seems a good link to the planned Jisc / HESA Business Intelligence Service. Here are those broad aims;

Capture and application of ‘data intelligence’
Improving support for HEIs during the data preview process
Promoting use of corrected data
Improving quality of supporting information
Influencing onward use of data

2. There’s a HESPA coordinated training initiative running events to support the planning community under;
HESA for planners (3 topics, 16 events)
Statistics for planners
And under discussion;
Leadership development (via LFHE)
BI, visualisation, performance monitoring, data management

Again these seem a great opportunity for collaboration with Jisc and perhaps as part of a national business intelligence competency centre. I spoke with a number of HESPA colleagues yesterday and highlighted the opportunities technology can bring for communication, coaching and even training. We may explore the use of WebEx type content delivery to the HESPA community. Watch the BI National Service initiative for this.

3. HESPA / HEFCE biannual meetings
Self explanatory I think!

4. Collaborations by Jackie Njoroge
Features Jisc first and foremost(?!) mentioning my meeting this afternoon with the HESPA Exec and HESA, HEDIIP and various sector reviews.

We then heard the feedback from delegate dinner tables about the conference. Hugely positive and I’d echo all of that. Nice that my suggestion on use of technologies to promote communications made the plenary and happy to work with HESPA to explore the opportunities.

The speakers yesterday were most insightful, inspirational and with gravitas. There was call from a sponsor to include more content from the commercial sector. This is something I have on the wish list for the JISC BI initiative. There are likely to be a lot of lessons we could learn from one another. The art of the possible …. what can the new technologies achieve beyond the day to day grind of providing a planning service.

I gathered some great insight on the latter yesterday. Planners frustrations at responding to requests for information. These are often fired back to query the data, the evidence, the methods, used out of context causing more queries, poorly expressed sometimes requiring a total restart, being told the conclusions wanted and asked to manipulate the data and more besides. Seems to me there’s an opportunity for a national dashboard service to handle much of this ‘heavy lift’ in terms of technically providing the right dashboards at the right time to the right people with defined data vocabularies, supporting the consumers in data lieracies and the inference they can draw, transparency and standardisation and perhaps the opportunity to self build / amend queries with safety built in. This could free off planner resource to work on higher level activities. These people are after all the sectors frontline data scientists and we all know that’s the worlds sexiest job – right?!

Session 2
Nigel Thrift, VC Warwick
Implementing a vision
On joining in 2006 Warwick had lost much confidence due to a failed attempt to set up a campus in Singapore. It needed putting back on the attack. A 12 month exercise achieved a new vision importantly with buy in. Nothing unusual in the goals…. world leader, high quality, internationalism, stakeholders, financial sustainability. Implementation was crucial and the planning office was integral. Warwick are VERY KEEN ON ANALYTICS. It’s as much an art as a science. It is CRUCIAL. Without it you only think you know what is going on!
Data and analytics and BI is reflected in Jisc strategic impact areas;

· Research enablement
· Learning, teaching and the digital student experience
· Sector and enterprise efficiency
· Collaboration and internationalisation
· Open agenda
· Data and analytics
· Digital translation and transformation from other sectors
· Institutional and academic leadership in the digital age
· Cyber security and access and identity management (AIM)
· Digital standards and policies at UK/ European/ international level

Also in our organisational structure. We are recruiting a director of data and analytics, closing date 8 March. Do take a look.

KPIs at Warwick include research grant income, 139 million which is 86% up on previous years. Spend of 50 – 75 million million a year since 2006 on new buildings. Quality of undergradiate students attracted – 97% are AAB. Clearly no impact here of the UCAS trend reported yesterday of BTEC influence.

Implementation characteristics include
International network
Joint professorships
Joint senior management
Actual and virtual mobility
Research income
Joint appointments (ability to work in Warwick, Malaysia, Australia, etc etc is appealing to some)
Meaningful Industrial Partnerships eg National Automotive Innovation Campus

Nigel forecasts that small research intensive institutions will not survive. He classes Warwick as medium sized. Expect mergers / takeovers to carry on as research intensive or changes in mission.

Coventry VC; Affect of removal of the SNC Cap; the cap protected some HEIs. The sector has a track recod of taking changes and turning them into opportunities. Expect a couple of years to see new models and ways of engagement, many issues eg blended learning will receive a spur on as a result of this.

Can Universities still ‘try new things out’, have they the space to allocate time, energy and interests. In essence I think can Universaities still innovate? VC Warwiock states the need for income sources to enter into projects. Underlying is the ability to generate the income. Without that you will be restrained by circumstances. The income genberation is essential. Budget 18-10 million a year for room to maneouvre.

VC Coventry – the surplus generation isn’t always where you’d expect. EG 7-10% turnover is quite normal, but needs awareness and managing. Coventry know which courses are producing surplus and how much. Have a RAG system. Seems a key area for Jisc and the BI initiative but to do this requires ‘local live data’ not 18 month old HESA data. Interesting challenges.

Session 3
The future of funding in HE – a panel session with Mario ferelli, Neil Surman, Derek Ross, Paul Clark, Simon Jennings

I have to say there has been a very high profile and standard of speaker at this event. Multiple plenaries of a great standard. Am only sorry my live blog can;t so full justice to them. Still, we try…

Paul Clark;
How to live well on nothing at all – a shift to higher skills based economy so expecting a Higher demand. Increased private contribution to HE. Increased requirement for efficiency from Government. 4% increase in student intake next year, lifting of the cap, less public investment.
1.2 billion of sector surplus quoted. An increased focus of effectiveness, efficiency and innovation with quotes of actual figures from Diamond / Diamond 2 here I think)

Short term this means a difficult transition – revenue for capital funding, competition, increased support from HEIs for disadvantaged student, the whole student loans thing. There is caution in growth and positioning, the rate of change has been very high.

Concluding – changes required;
Cost of the funding system needs to be brought down
The RAB Charge….
Net revenues need to increase, fee cap unlikely to be increased above inflation so some restrictions on net funding removed
Keep up the pressure on efficiency AND innovation – Jisc is involved in both of these through core business of innovation to new services and the UUK Efficiency Exchange initiative
The long term opportunities for the sector could be substantial

Next speaker
Asking to discuss the future of funding is like forecasting the weather and the effect of climate change. One thing for sure – we are in this together…..the importance of alumni is greater than ever before. Jisc has done some work on how to optimise alumni relations
The SLC has records on past and present students and will be in touch with those alumni for much of their working lives. The evidence base is coming. The importance of employment prospects of graduates is key.
The RAB charge, a loan, financed by the government with a huge public cost, to call it private is inaccurate. Retention is improving which is adding to the cost….! Earnings of our graduates is going to be key and therefore employability is more important than ever. Jisc is running a Summer of Student Innovation – a crowd sourcing of student ideas for tech based start ups / new services to the sector along with a Jisc school for entrepreneurship. Worth a look at the out going stuff here and an announcement of the new phase is imminent. Our Digital festival in March will showcase some of the candidate services.

Next Speaker
The Welsh picture – spent last 3 years being reactive. Whatever happens in England has an effect on Wales. Competition is key at a global level but also for the scarce centralised funds. Welsh Minister principles are very different to English (Willets is here later). HE should be seen as a public good benefiting from public support. Legislation on future regulation of HE in Wales is coming and hsould given more certainty to Welsh institutions.
Diamond is chairing a review of HE funding and post 16 student finance in Wales. HE, FE, Under and post grad, full time and part time with a 2 year time frame.
Ian is also gearing up for a round of efficiency and effectiveness two and JIsc are involved with UUK in delivering on some aspects of that.

SLC Speaker
Ensuring that 1.5 billion pounds flows through to HEIs. Systems designed to implement a single set of complimentary policies. Now have 4 independent Governments pulling in different directions. The growth of alternative providers has been huge, with an unexpected increase of 400% on loan applications with 90% of those form commercial providers. In addition SLC is grappling with the sell off of the legacy loan portfolio.

Scottish Speaker
Similar picture to UK level. Alex Salmond has committed to the existing funding regime. The sector was protected to the detriment of other sectors, this seems untenable in the future and any change in Government would likely cut HE funding. The independence referendum in 8 months time is key.