Using Business Intelligence Tools in Higher Education

Date:   Friday , June 06, 2014

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In recent times, the professionals in higher education are gradually adapting to new terms and technologies such as dashboards, data analytics, data visualisation, data warehousing and many such concepts which are the key components of Business Intelligence (BI) software that can help the universities or institutes in strategic decision making. The acceptance of BI into higher education has been significantly slower when compared to other verticals because of its complex and unique nature.

Indian business intelligence (BI) software revenue is forecast to reach $139.5 million in 2014, a 16 percent increase over 2013 revenue of $121.2 million, according to Gartner, Inc. This forecast includes revenue for BI platforms, packaged analytic applications and corporate performance management (CPM) software. The market is expected to grow further to $171.2 million by 2016. Also, Gartner has identified- mass acceptance of social networking, support for extreme data performance and social content analytics as some of the factors that continue to drive BI\'s growth in India.

Integrating BI is vital for Educational Institutes
Any form of business accompanies various uncertainties and risks. To adapt to such situations, organizations require precise, significant and useful information about the business environment they work. Planning and responding to any situation needs accurate information about the working environment. But educational institutions, at several times, do not have the precise information to make appropriate and timely decisions. Whether the business is an educational institute, primary school, university or college, it can be successful only with appropriate insight and data. So, it is very important that educational institutions give more emphasis on understanding their business operations and target market by integrating BI to help them make data-driven business decisions that can enable them achieve better results and avoid any bottlenecks in the process.

Use of BI in Education Sector
BI is an integral factor in the decision making process of the business enterprises. There is no doubt that educational sector is changing especially in universities and higher education. In recent times, the education sector has understood the importance of implementing BI tools for better and smooth functioning. BI can help educational institutes to integrate data and process it to extract information, knowledge and wisdom to plan for the future. Institutes, colleges or universities can collect data on how the students, faculty, and more, interact with other departments within the campus or other centres across the city or country. By analysing this data, the institutes can figure out the areas to improve their services.

One of the biggest hurdles educational institutions face today in the adoption of BI is the upfront cost required for software licenses and implementations. A careful analysis shows that these costs are eminently justifiable through improvements in both the top-line and bottom-line. Implementation of a BI system typically saves a lot of manual effort currently being spent in collecting, collating, curating and composing reports and this effort can be saved by reducing staffing or reallocation the resources. Equally, BI systems usually results in increased efficient of operations - better staffing plans, lesser overtime for faculty and others - which translates into saved money. BI systems also help improve top-line and enhance quality by identifying areas of special tutoring, helping students prepare study plans, helping students analyse academic and career options, deciding where to open the next school/university and more.

Education service providers are using a wide variety of technology options in implementing their BI solutions. To help capture data accurately, most institutes are using Learning Management Systems and/or Student Information systems in addition to CRM systems, Assessment Software, Campus Management Software and knowledge management software. To store the data commercial relational databases are the most common, though we are increasing seeing the usage of open source databases, in-memory databases and big data databases (the latter primarily for unstructured data). To process and transform the data, institutes use a variety of Extract, Transform & Load (ETL) tools and to report on this information traditional BI tools are used increasingly in conjunction with excel, charting tools and other advanced visualization tools. Finally, analytical softwares both open source and commercial use statistical modelling techniques to provide additional insights into data.

Future of BI in Education Sector
Education is one of the fastest growing sectors worldwide and there is a major prospect for BI in education sector. In the coming days, the educational enterprises will have to adapt the advanced and sophisticated technological tools to compete. With the implementation of business intelligence tools in higher education, it will become easier to perform complicated analysis of student records, staff performance, changing syllabus or program etc.With better and more accurate collection of data, the prospects of providing better and more accurate insights has also increased. With the increasing acceptance of BI and more easily quantifiable benefits, the institutes have also recognised its value and now BI is being used as an enabling tool for managers to enhance their knowledge and skills.

The educational institutions are also recognising BI as a tool to provide them with the competitive advantage and thus striving to be early adopters of BI. Even though business intelligence is in its embryonic stage in the higher education sector, it is on the cusp of a significant growth.