Data Warehouse Initiative: Moving from Data to Information

It seems that every organization today wants to both acquire more data and do more with it.

At the center of any discussion about “data-driven decision making” there is one significant hurdle:  taking large amounts of data, from disparate sources and in different formats, and transforming it into consistent, accurate and useful information.

Most large organizations today, including many universities, use a method called Data Warehousing to accomplish the “data to information” transformation.  Some 92% of SMU’s aspirational peer universities use data warehouses, as do 67% of cohort peers.  Of the 13 institutions in addition to SMU in the Colonial Group (a consortium of universities that conduct data exchanges and information sharing through their Institutional Research offices), 85% use a data warehouse.

In brief, a data warehouse is a relational database that is designed for query and analysis rather than for transaction processing. It pulls from systems across the university, simplifies, consolidates and transforms complex, unmatched data into usable, consistent data that can flow easily into analytics and visualization tools from which organizations can generate usable information. All parts of the organization then have the ability to draw from a rich, trusted information source.

“Basically, our student data, financial data, alumni data, donor data, etc., all live in different locations and formats, so it’s difficult to conduct good strategic research and planning,” said Dr. Patty Alvey, director of Assessment and Accreditation for SMU. “Currently there are few people on campus who can merge and manage our data sets. A data warehouse can put better information at the fingertips of managers across the university.

“For example, if we want to work to improve student retention rates, we might want to compare information about students and their Residential Commons,” said Alvey. “Currently, information about student success doesn’t exist in the same format and location as information about the Residential Commons. By way of a data warehouse, information from all parts of the institution can be used to discover many ways we can improve our students’ experience.”

A data warehouse usually contains historical data derived from transactions, but it can include and consolidate data from other sources.  In addition to a relational database, a data warehouse environment includes an extraction, transportation, transformation, and loading (ETL) solution, an online analytical processing (OLAP) engine, client analysis tools, and other applications that manage the process of gathering data and delivering it to business users.

The process of moving any organization from disparate collections of data to a position where many members of the organization can query data to make sound decisions requires careful planning and cooperation across the organization. Day-to-day operations (transactions) are not affected by either the implementation or use of a data warehouse. Data flows into the warehouse on regular schedules and remains constant thereafter.  Security and privacy for all the different functions of the organization are maintained while everyone has access to important and useful information.

A new Data Warehouse Initiative has now been established through the Office of Operational Excellence to develop this program at SMU.

The goals are:

  1. Inventory, define, prioritize, and aggregate data for end users and decision makers
  2. Research best practices and design a system for data governance
  3. Implement best practice workflow from data input to decision-making dashboards

To accomplish these tasks, the team will have to fully understand the variety of data that exists at SMU regarding data pools, ownership, purpose, security, input, storage and output systems. The Data Warehouse team had an initial meeting on June 23 and will quickly begin contacting employees in departments across campus to gather information on their data usage.

Data Warehouse Initiative Leadership and Membership

Executive Sponsors-Jim Quick and Joe Gargiulo

Patty Alvey-Project Manager

Cindy Boeke-CUL

Adam Cebulski-Student Affairs

Charles Headley-DEA

Curt Herridge-IT

Joe Papari-Registrar

Marc Peterson-Financial Aid

Darrel Pyle-Budgets and Finance

Michael Tumeo-Institutional Research


Less Paperwork, More Time: Multiple New HR Initiatives Increase Efficiency

The SMU Human Resources Department is making progress on numerous initiatives that are making campus hiring, payroll and administrative processes faster and more efficient.

Applicant Screening Software to Streamline Hiring Process

Every year, SMU processes about 28,000 applications to fill approximately 200 positions. It is not uncommon for a position to attract over 140 resumes. In the past, hiring managers had to set aside significant amounts of time to read and comment on each and every resume. The process took weeks, sometimes months.

But now, thanks to new HR initiatives, the recruitment process is being streamlined with the help of new software, freeing up managers’ attention for other tasks and condensing the time it takes to bring new people on board.

Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer Sheri Starkey says campus hiring managers should start to see some relief when the new Taleo talent management software is implemented.  This software performs an initial phase of applicant screening. Before a manager reviews stacks of resumes, Taleo searches the resumes for the desirable experience, skills, education and training identified by the hiring manager.  Ultimately the software allows managers to quickly screen out applicants who don’t meet the minimum requirements.

“Taleo has several types of screening filters,” says Starkey. “If a hiring manager needs specific degrees or skills, Taleo can search and identify which applicants meet that criteria. It helps pinpoint the most qualified candidates and presents the hiring manager with a smaller, more qualified pool of candidates, thereby saving time and getting positions filled more quickly.”

The new software is PeopleSoft compatible and will be integrated with the new online ePAF (electronic payroll authorization form) to further eliminate paper processes. The transition to the new process began in February 2016 and is expected to be complete by September.

Need temps? Kelly Services now on campus

HR is working on several improvement initiatives simultaneously, including establishing a Kelly Services-at-SMU presence.  According to Starkey, many universities have third-party temp service partnerships that help fill the continual demand for temporary hires. SMU has brought the temp service agency to the campus. There are two on-site Kelly Services personnel in the HR offices in Expressway Tower. When a department has a temporary hire need, they can contact Senior Account Talent Manager Leigh Wilson by email or by phone at 214-768-3166.

“The new Kelly Services-at-SMU program saves SMU a tremendous amount of time by identifying, hiring and orienting temporary workers,” says Starkey. “By having Kelly Services handle the payrolling part, the Kelly Service temp receives his or her paycheck through Kelly Services instead of SMU.”

Kelly Services also manages optional medical insurance offered to the temps, thereby relieving SMU of spending time to tend to Affordable Care Act health insurance obligations as they pertain to temporary hires.

HR employee Erica Velasquez is the liaison to Kelly Services-at-SMU. Implementation for the new program began June 1, 2016 and is currently being phased in.

Electronic Payroll Forms now in play; more online forms on the horizon

SMU has also reduced time-intensive paperwork by switching to more convenient online forms.

Working with SMU’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Gideon Taylor PeopleSoft consultants, Phase One of rolling out electronic payroll authorization forms (e-PAF) was completed in May 2016. The ePAF allows for on-line initiation, approval and hiring for hiring students, non-Kelly Services temporaries, adjunct faculty and benefit-eligible staff.  Phase Two will include other employment activities and status changes: transfers, pay rate changes, funding changes, job reclassifications, termination form, Form I-9 and faculty forms. Phase Two completion is expected by December 31, 2016.

Campus-wide compensation study: in the works long before OE2C

Managers across campus were intrigued in spring 2016 when they were asked by HR to send in updated job descriptions for everyone on their staff, for the purpose of a campus-wide compensation study. According to Starkey, plans for doing the study were made long before OE2C was underway, and the study is intended to bring SMU job descriptions and classifications into alignment with peer university and market compensation. Such a study, says Starkey, is long overdue.

“In the 31-plus years I have been working for SMU, we have never done a University-wide compensation study,” she says. “We have completed market studies for a job or a group of jobs in the past, but we’ve never done that for the University as a whole.

“We want to look at compensation holistically. Jobs can be in different job families but still be equal, on par with each other.  The only way to assess that is to get updated job descriptions, figure out where the positions need to be in the grand scheme of the organization, do a comparative market study and make adjustments from there.

“Our current compensation policy basically says ‘equal pay for equal work,’” she says. “That’s great and that’s what the law says, but what we’re trying to do is give some guiding direction when managers are hiring someone. If you have salary ranges that are based on market data, then ideally you should be able to hire someone in that range.”

Ultimately, the goal is to evaluate SMU job descriptions and salaries, see where they stand in comparison to other universities and organizations, get the salaries appropriately priced and establish a sustainable pay strategy and compensation policy that helps SMU attract, retain and maintain high-quality personnel.

Aon Hewitt, a global human resources consulting service, is assisting SMU with the compensation study and market research. The study is expected to be completed by late fall, after which recommendations will be made to SMU administration. Implementation is anticipated in FY 2017-18.

Updated employee performance review model

For approximately 15 years, most managers and employees used a performance review worksheet to describe work successes, examine areas that needed strengthening and set goals for the coming year. Using a four-tier rating system, the forms covered employee self-assessment and manager assessment of the employee. Areas of discussion could include competencies, accomplishments, academic achievements, continuing education, professional development, progress from the previous year and more.

In spring 2016 the performance review forms changed to make way for an eventual online review. The new process won’t just save time but may also better align employee work and goals with overall University goals.

The new form asks the employee to discuss the outcomes and accomplishments of employee goals set for the previous year. In response, the manager weighs in with his or her assessment. Finally, the forms provide space to identify goals for the coming year. The goal-setting form is flexible, allowing employees and managers to close out goals and add new goals throughout the year.

The spring 2016 forms still used paper, but HR expects the forms to go online by spring 2017 as the review process begins.

Questions, comments for HR

For questions, concerns or ideas about the multiple HR improvement initiatives, contact Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer Sheri Starkey.


Procurement Initiative To Measure Printing Needs

The OE2C Procurement Initiative is in the process of exploring how the University can save on printing costs, as a preliminary assessment indicates this is an area where we can achieve significant savings. In order to better understand the printing environment at SMU, the committee is interested in looking at the University’s aggregate printing data. This information will be gathered by PaperCut, a new application that will be installed beginning Wednesday, January 21, through the campus computer management system (LANDesk).

News OE2C

SMU Statement Regarding Media Reports

Every organization should review its costs and operations on a regular basis. SMU is in the lead as a university in undertaking an operational review to be accountable to its constituents, including donors who provide generous support and students who pay tuition. SMU announced such a review process in March and has communicated in various ways with the campus, through the web, interviews and meetings. SMU is enjoying tremendous success with its major gifts campaign for restricted, high-priority purposes such as scholarships, faculty support and facilities. However, we must reduce our operational and administrative costs to direct as many resources as possible to our core, academic mission.