As we gear up for the Alliance Conference, coming up March 25 to 28 2018 in Salt Lake City, I wanted to focus on a vital aspect of Higher Education Administration: Reporting. It’s the subject of the case study below as well as my upcoming presentation at Alliance 2018.
Most anyone attending Alliance knows that Higher Ed reporting needs are getting increasingly complex yet IT systems continue to struggle to keep pace. This is where Oracle Application Express can do some heavy lifting. And, it’s exactly what I’ll be talking about in my Alliance session called ” Reporting As A Service (RaaS) with Oracle Application Express ” (Session number 5327- Reporting and Business Intelligence Track).
The session content is based on experiences we’ve had at Insum, helping customers such as IT administrators, DBAs, and end-users within educational institutions who are faced with an increasing number of challenges. They need to:
- Consolidate data from various sources
- Answer numerous ad hoc requests for data
- Provide high-fidelity output
- Provide scheduling, charting and dashboarding services
- Combine on-premise and cloud-based data
This is why the RaaS reporting method is so effective. it is web-browser based and database independent. It can free you from the constraints of your existing systems. It allows you to drill down into your data in a myriad of ways. Even better, Oracle Application Express (APEX) lets you create reports within a matter of minutes.
I urge you to find out more about RaaS for Higher Education, by coming to see our session. I’ll be there with Christian Laroque and Art Rinberger.
I hope to meet you there.
How UC Berkeley used Oracle APEX
If you aren’t coming to Alliance, here’s just one of our reporting success stories that illustrates how a targeted use of Oracle APEX can jumpstart your reporting.
UC Berkeley integrating APEX into an Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) dashboard.
Name: Teal Sexton
Title: Business Intelligence Functional Lead
Briefly describe how you are using Oracle APEX
We have integrated an Oracle APEX application into an OBIEE dashboard, to allow users to enter financial projections and then instantly view the impact on projected fund balances. We use this to project future costs for research contracts & grants so that faculty can make well-informed purchasing and hiring decisions to support their research.
What made you choose Oracle APEX at UC Berkeley?
We built an OBIEE dashboard for faculty to view their budgets, spending and current balances on research funds. After the release, they said it would not be useful without integrated projections. These also need to be entered by 150+ different research administration staff across campus, on an ongoing basis. After seeing APEX in use at another campus, I knew it was capable of providing data to assist with projections, and then could write updates directly to the database. that’s why I suggested we look into using it to meet the requirements for the Projections Project and after showing mockups of my design for the projections input form, we found consultants who could build it for us.
What problems did it solve for UC Berkeley?
Projections are now entered in the same standard format across UC Berkeley. And, they are available from anywhere in the world through the web-based OBIEE reporting platform. Previously, projections were done manually in Excel, using very different methods, and service was highly inconsistent. The research administration organization is now more sustainable and trainable as a result of the APEX projections input form.
What technology did it replace?
Manual Excel spreadsheets cobbled together with limited access to source system data
Was there an “Aha!” moment at some point with the staff and user base?
Absolutely! The first demos I came up with just blew away anyone who hadn’t seen the input form design. It provides human resources appointment data for personnel. Furthermore, this key information can be copied directly into the projections. This, in turn, automatically triggers associated projections for benefits and indirect costs. What used to take days now takes minutes!
If you could add a feature to the next Oracle APEX release, what would that be?
I think it is important to ensure that new releases do not cause existing APEX applications to become obsolete. Despite APEX’s amazing capabilities, our campus is still worried about continuing to use it. This is because they’ve been burned by Oracle’s new releases in the past. We often rely heavily on systems for a long time because higher education is slow to change. If a popular platform suddenly becomes “unsupported”, then we are left trying to figure out how to keep the lights on. This Projections application (built in APEX 5.0) is so vital to our business process we hope it will survive a decade of use before new releases turn it into a dinosaur.
What role do you see Oracle APEX playing in the future at UC Berkeley?
I plan to use APEX to deliver additional functionality in our OBIEE dashboards across other areas of Finance. Of course, this would go beyond just research funding. The campus wants to be able to input comments about funds, and make projections across all sources, to assist with multi-year budgeting. I am also considering using APEX for request forms for purchasing and reimbursement, so users can choose their funding source from a drop-down list based on enterprise finance data, and the request will automatically process in PeopleSoft. I continue to think of ways APEX might be helpful because it is a great way to extend the functionality of our Enterprise Data Warehouse.
For a college or university considering Oracle APEX, what single piece of advice would you give?
Where do you go when you have APEX questions?
I reach out to my friends at Insum!
See you at Alliance in Salt Lake City!
In summary, if your Higher Education Apps need to adapt to growing faculty needs, It’s well worth your while to check out APEX. I hope we met at this year’s Alliance!