Data-Driven Insights with an Azure Data Platform for Concordia University
Concordia University’s management team realized they could generate insights from their data more efficiently by consolidating data management and reporting into a single advanced analytics platform.
Concordia University had a variety of data warehouses and reporting capabilities. As with many organizations, Concordia realized they could generate insights from their data more efficiently by consolidating data management and reporting into a single platform. With their experience with Microsoft Azure delivering the Spend Analysis and Advancement use cases, Concordia is now undertaking an initiative to expand the role of their Azure data platform.
Concordia has a formal program called the Institutional Data Platform (IDP) that is actively being developed and delivered across departments within the University. Over time, IDP will be used to supply institutional dashboards and will provide source data and resources for predictive analytics (AI/ML). By organizing source data in an analytic optimized data model and data platform, Concordia will be able to enrich reports and dashboards with data from various operational systems that were previously locked into ‘silos’.
Analytical and operational reports from the Academic Advancement Office have traditionally been based on raw data from sources like the University’s CRM system. Transforming this data for reporting was based on several queries, so the process of preparing reports required a significant amount of manual effort.
Moving to IDP, Azure Synapse, and ETL tools like Azure Data Factory will allow Concordia to automate these manual processes, such as automating the reporting process, eliminating opportunities for manual errors.
Concordia was looking for a solution that enabled analysis based on the exploration of data from different departments and operational systems. Due to the large volume of data being collected and held, it became vital that all data was confidential and encrypted. Department staff throughout the organization were able to produce reports, however, the process was manual which resulted in error-filled reports. Concordia required a self-service reporting tool that would organize data, processes, and policies under thoughtful governance access control. To ensure security and protection on all data, the organization would need to define user privilege and data access on Azure Active Directory.
Lastly, Concordia needed to implement a standardized ETL (extract, transform, load) process for transforming data so that it’s optimized for downstream and analytics requirements. For other analytic use cases, the organization is making the data sources available in a data lake without transformation.
Apart from finding the right solution to aid their current challenges, Concordia needed to find a solution provider that could demonstrate the following: the ability to lead IT & non-IT teams with over 10+ years of experience architecting and implementing data management/analytics solutions. A provider that held knowledge of Concordia’s operational platform including SAP S4/Hana, Ariba, Concur, Peoplesoft, and Oracle. Being a Gold Level Partner with Microsoft would be ideal as well.
Concordia University engaged with Adastra, a leading Microsoft partner for analytics and technology to design and build a Microsoft Azure data platform to support two requirements related to Advancement initiatives analysis and Spend Analysis.
Similar to other Universities, the Concordia University Academic Advancement Office supports the University’s mission through engagement with the private sector and alumni. The Advancement Office organizes philanthropic and volunteer events and programs.
When Adastra was approached, Concordia had the ability to view real-time data related to prospect plans by stage and fundraiser. Decision-makers in the organization however lacked the tools to perform trend analysis and historic analysis on this data.
Adastra’s initial project showed how daily snapshots of the data could be logged for retrospective analysis of the prospect plan managers over time. This use case was aimed to demonstrate:
- Ability to create data snapshots for historic and trend reporting
- Showcase data through Power BI dashboards/reports
Concordia’s request for Adastra’s expertise included a second use case related to Finance Spend Analysis. This Spend Analysis use case stemmed from a large program Concordia had in-flight to deliver digital transformation across multiple departments including Human Resources, Finance, and Procurement.
The aim of the Spend Analysis work was to demonstrate a range of capabilities including:
- Data integration from multiple data sources
- Exposing the same reporting data model across multiple BI Tools
- Demonstrating Power BI self-service capabilities.
The business value of the Spend Analysis pilot was as follows:
- Spend analysis on technology expenses across faculty (vertical analysis)
- Technology equipment purchases across the University (horizontal analysis)
Adastra’s collaboration with Concordia enabled them to gain exposure and knowledge from true thought-leaders within the analytics and data governance industry. Adastra’s professional and experienced consultants contributed their expertise to Concordia’s efforts to generate valuable insights from their data through a single platform.
- Cost-effectiveness – Concordia has engaged the services of Adastra’s Global Delivery teams offering access to high-demand technical skills under the cost-efficient Global Delivery commercial model.
- Global Delivery – By engaging resources that are based in Europe, progress can be made on Concordia’s project work outside of Eastern Time. This means that work toward specifications can be continued while Concordia’s team is offline.
- Microsoft partnership – As Adastra is acknowledged as a leading analytics delivery partner, Adastra’s consultants share the advantages of the close working relationship between Adastra and Microsoft.
- Multi-cloud Expertise – Adastra’s cloud expertise extends to AWS, GCP, and Snowflake. When a requirement surfaced to assess options for an application architecture that required multi-cloud expertise, Adastra was able to provide an experienced consultant with the right blend of experience and knowledge of multiple cloud platforms.
Adastra continues to support Concordia with several consultants that are engaged on an ongoing basis to design and build the IDP. Adastra can provide high-quality, experienced consultants that are reliable and cost-effective. Adastra’s consultants collaborate with their respective practices to bring Concordia insights learned from other client engagements. As a leading Microsoft partner for analytics, the Adastra team has insights into the direction of Microsoft’s technologies that help Concordia plan and prioritize to capitalize on these capabilities.