The California State University Chancellor’s Office (CSUCO) sits at the center of America’s most significant and diverse 4-year universities. The California State University (CSU) serves approximately 477,000 students and employs more than 55,000 staff and faculty members across 23 universities and 7 off-campus centers. The CSU provides students with opportunities to develop intellectually and personally, and to contribute back to the communities throughout California. For this large organization, managing a wide system of campuses while maintaining the decentralized autonomy of each is crucial. In 2019, they needed a highly secure tool to streamline the process of pulling HR data. The CSU had been using a legacy central data warehouse based on data from their financial system, but it lacked the robustness to keep up with modern technology. This wasn’t going to work for their HR reporting needs.
Looking for a tool to match the cloud-based infrastructure of their other operations, the Business Intelligence and Data Operations (BI/DO) team within the Chancellor’s Office chose Amazon QuickSight, a fast, easy-to-use, cloud-powered business analytics service that makes it easy for all employees within an organization to build visualizations, perform ad hoc analysis, and quickly get business insights from their data, any time, on any device. The team uses QuickSight to organize HR information across the CSU, implementing a centralized security system.
“It’s easy to use, very straightforward, and relatively intuitive. When you couple the experience of using QuickSight, with a huge cost difference to [the BI platform we had been using], to me, it’s a simple choice,”
– Andy Sydnor, Director Business Intelligence and Data Operations at the CSUCO.
With QuickSight, the team has the capability to harness security measures and deliver data insights efficiently across their campuses.
In this post, we share how the CSUCO uses QuickSight to reduce cost and improve efficiency in their HR reporting.
Delivering BI insights across the CSU’s 23 universities
The CSUCO serves the university system’s faculty, students, and staff by overseeing operations in several areas, including finance, HR, student information, and space and facilities. Since migrating to QuickSight in 2019, the team has built dashboards to support these operations. Dashboards include COVID-related leaves of absence, historical financial reports, and employee training data, along with a large selection of dashboards to track employee data at an individual campus level or from a system-wide perspective.
The team created a process for reading security roles from the ERP system and then translating them using QuickSight groups for internal HR reporting. QuickSight allowed them to match security measures with the benefits of low maintenance and familiarity to their end-users.
With QuickSight, the CSUCO is able to run a decentralized security process where campus security teams can provision access directly and users can get to their data faster. Before transitioning to QuickSight, the BI/DO team spent hours trying to get to specific individual-level data, but with QuickSight, the retrieval time was shortened to just minutes. For the first time, Sydnor and his team were able to pinpoint a specific employee’s work history without having to take additional actions to find the exact data they needed.
Cost savings compared to other BI tools
Sydnor shares that, for a public organization, one of the most attractive qualities of QuickSight is the immense cost savings. The BI/DO team at the Chancellor’s Office estimates that they’re saving roughly 40% on costs since switching from their previous BI platform, which is a huge benefit for a public organization of this scale. Their previous BI tool was costing them extensive amounts of money on licensing for features they didn’t require; the CSUCO felt they weren’t getting the best use of their investment.
The functionality of QuickSight to meet their reporting needs at an affordable price point is what makes QuickSight the CSUCO’s preferred BI reporting tool. Sydnor likes that with QuickSight, “we don’t have to go out and buy a subscription or a license for somebody, we can just provision access. It’s much easier to distribute the product.” QuickSight allows the CSUCO to focus their budget in other areas rather than having to pay for charges by infrequent users.
Simple and intuitive interface
Getting started in QuickSight was a no-brainer for Sydnor and his team. As a public organization, the procurement process can be cumbersome, thereby slowing down valuable time for putting their data to action. As an existing AWS customer, the CSUCO could seamlessly integrate QuickSight into their package of AWS services. An issue they were running into with other BI tools was encountering roadblocks to setting up the system, which wasn’t an issue with QuickSight, because it’s a fully managed service that doesn’t require deploying any servers.
The following screenshot shows an example of the CSUCO security audit dashboard.
Sydnor tells us, “Our previous BI tool had a huge library of visualization, but we don’t need 95% of those. Our presentations look great with the breadth of visuals QuickSight provides. Most people just want the data and ultimately, need a robust vehicle to get data out of a database and onto a table or visualization.”
Converting from their original BI tool to QuickSight was painless for his team. Sydnor tells us that he has “yet to see something we can’t do with QuickSight.” One of Sydnor’s employees who was a user of the previous tool learned QuickSight in just 30 minutes. Now, they conduct QuickSight demos all the time.
Looking to the future: Expanding BI integration and adopting Amazon QuickSight Q
With QuickSight, the Chancellor’s Office aims to roll out more HR dashboards across its campuses and extend the tool for faculty use in the classroom. In the upcoming year, two campuses are joining CSUCO in building their own HR reporting dashboards through QuickSight. The organization is also making plans to use QuickSight to report on student data and implement external-facing dashboards. Some of the data points they’re excited to explore are insights into at-risk students and classroom scheduling on campus.
Thinking ahead, CSUCO is considering Amazon QuickSight Q, a machine learning-powered natural language capability that gives anyone in an organization the ability to ask business questions in natural language and receive accurate answers with relevant visualizations. Sydnor says, “How cool would that be if professors could go in and ask simple, straightforward questions like, ‘How many of my department’s students are taking full course loads this semester?’ It has a lot of potential.”
The CSUCO is excited to be a champion of QuickSight in the CSU, and are looking for ways to increase its implementation across their organization in the future.
To learn more, visit the website for the California State University Chancellor’s Office. For more on QuickSight, visit the Amazon QuickSight product page, or browse other Big Data Blog posts featuring QuickSight.
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