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I’m writing to request some suggestions to help us identify some independent consultants who would be able to assist us with developing an institution-wide data repository strategy, as part of the College's comprehensive BI/analytics solution. 


Specifically we are looking for a consultant to help educate us as to the current and future direction of the industry with regard to institution-wide data repositories (data warehouse or similar), and work with us to review, develop and recommend at least 2 possible data repository solution options for final consideration.  The solutions could include building our own data warehouse, 3rd party solution(s), a combination or some other option.

Have any of you worked with firms that you would recommend?  We are looking for someone who is not aligned with any particular vendor solution (i.e.: “vendor agnostic”).


Thanks for any recommendations.





David Weil

Director, Enterprise Application Services

Information Technology Services


Ithaca College

953 Danby Rd. | Ithaca, NY 14850 |


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Stacy, hi,

Sorry for the delayed response.  I'm just now catching up with email after a couple of weeks at home in Michigan with friends and family.  It was just like a shot in the arm. 


I see that you are looking for a tool-agnostic consultant to help define a path for your Institution to successfully use data warehousing and BI tools.  I assume your goal: to better analyze your operations to gain insight and intelligence to guide important decisions for positive impact in all areas of it's academic vision.  But you don't want to open yourself up to salespeople who are looking for hundreds of thousands of dollars as an initial investment for the first 10 licences? 

You are in good company.  John seems to be in a similar place.  And a very typical one as well.  He's done his homework, brought in the experts, defined a vision, a pathway, identified resources, estimated costs and...nothing. 

It's a sad story, and one that it repeated every day in academic institutions, associations, non-profits and related fields.  We recognize the need to measure real results, carefully analyze what works and what doesn't work to meet the challenges of an increasingly competitive academic "marketplace", but we don't recognize the need for the new resources, the training, the data structures and the people and infrastructure to support them, the tools and associated costs.  Add that up and the ROI is hard to prove.   


John made a very good point when he wrote that the move toward BI had to come from the business.  But, the business might not know that they are already using BI tools.  Excel is a BI tool. SAS is a BI tool.   PL/SQL can be combined with VB to build BI tools.   

You can describe where you see your organization in five years, your BI vision.  And this you can do with no BI consultant.  Working with only a good analyst, you can talk to the directors of the areas which are most likely to benefit from increased insight into their data.  Those who already are using tools like Excel and experiencing the complexity of doing so with older toolsets.   As CIO you probably have a good idea who these folks are. 

They will be the admissions officers who want to be able to better analyze the demographics of the highly desirable applicants who decided against attending your institution in critical time periods, or the financial aid officers who need insight into new cohorts of applicants, they will be department heads who wish to evaluate faculty salaries against the market to attract the best.  The need is every on campus and you know it. 

It is also most likely that these directors have high profile, high visibility, business critical reports they have to create and they likely create them using a series of data extractions, Excel transformation and calculations in unruly spreadsheets that no one wants to maintain for fear of breaking them, and reports which are burst after a series of manual edits.  These are the ones to focus on first.  Offer to partner with them on a re-engineering effort.  You build a small data mart for a research effort or an Operational Data Store for a more transactional-based reporting need.

One successful effort leads to another and another and pretty soon you have the momentum for the larger investment you are looking for.  You can even look to IT internal projects.  As long as the results are felt by those who control the purse strings, you are working on the right projects to get the ball rolling.  No DW consultant worth their salt is going to tell you to bite off the whole thing at once anyway.  The marts and ODSs you build need to be bolstered by adequate MDM and governance programs so you can grow a data warehouse.

And while you're at it you are growing your own data warehouse professionals too.  Your current staff only marginally spiced up with DW or BI specialists will be up to the task.

So you have a vision, based on some number of smaller efforts leading up the road to an integrated and larger effort, and you have a posse of supporters who you have helped save time and effort by re-engineering complex reporting or research into successes.

Like John, I am happy to talk anytime.  And I hope that the consultant that helped John was able to help you too. How are things going for you, John?  This is such an exciting place in technology to be. 


Liz Barr