This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Questions & Answers

Published: November 1, 2007

Joseph Kerr is assistant vice president, Technology Services, and project leader for the Strategic Information Reporting Initiative, part of the IT Transformation initiative of UB 2020.

What is the Strategic Information Reporting Initiative?

SIRI is UB's long-term, multi-year vision for creating a single authoritative source for State, Research and UB Foundation data and reporting and analytic tools. Subject areas to be addressed include financial, human resources, student, research, space and philanthropy. SIRI will address operational, managerial and strategic information needs. The first phase defined requirements, developed a business case, evaluated and selected a vendor, and estimated resource requirements. The current foundational second phase upgraded InfoSource, implemented data warehouse and reporting hardware and business intelligence (BI) software, expands financial and HR data, and will deploy financial and HR reports and dashboards.

It sounds like there is a lot of work and challenges to address before the vision is achieved. When will people start to see progress?

We refer to a multiyear vision because there is an incredible amount of functional, technical and policy work needed to achieve the goals, and we have to start by building the basic foundation. Today, data is spread across many sources, is inconsistent, has quality issues and is difficult to access. There are not any centrally offered analytic and reporting tools, and critical functionality—such as forecasting, planning and commitment management—is not centrally available. Simple questions like what is the faculty/student ratio, how many people work for me, etc. are hard to consistently answer. The objectives of the current foundation phase of SIRI are to create a data warehouse in InfoSource, acquire hardware and software, implement the Oracle business intelligence (BI) tool and deliver initial financial and human resources reports and dashboards. The financial and HR information will support the UB resource management and planning process, as well as provide initial financial and HR reports. Reports and training will begin to be delivered to the customer pilot group in February. While the university is making a significant resource investment, it also is building a strong data and reporting foundation for the future, especially for the student, space, research and philanthropy reporting phases to come.

Where will all this information be kept? Does this mean InfoSource will go away? Will the information be real time?

InfoSource is definitely not going away; in fact, it will become even more important as SIRI relies on InfoSource as the single authoritative source for data. InfoSource will be supplemented with a new series of data-warehouse-type data models to provide a more strategic view of the university. The new information will be made available through SIRI analytic and reporting tools. We are working to get data from multiple sources together in a consistent format. A data standardization effort begun three years ago to develop and implement a common set of administrative financial and HR terms and definitions has been helpful addressing the many differences across data sources. The outcome of this effort will be many improvements to InfoSource. Most data in InfoSource will continue to be updated overnight.

What will SIRI look like? Will it be able to be customized? Will people be able to make their own reports?

SIRI will consist of Web-based reports and dashboards grouped together to serve operational, managerial and strategic audiences. There will be standard groupings of reports into dashboards, as well as the option for users to group and select reports more customized to their needs. Reports will have many options for filtering the data, and flexibility in how the data is presented, i.e. tables, charts, graphs, etc. Future phases will see the ability to create custom reports.

Information that SIRI will provide in one place is currently fragmented across multiple UB systems, such as BARS, People and Money, UB First and InfoSource On-line. How will SIRI impact these systems?

A SIRI objective is to create a single authoritative source for information and reporting. Phase II implementation of financial and HR information will make significant progress toward replacing BARS Campus Inquiry, People and Money, UB First and InfoSource On-line financial and HR reports by creating an integrated solution that meets the needs served by these systems. Phase II needs to be deployed first, enhanced based on user input and be sure necessary functionality has been successfully provided before the replaced systems are turned off. Replacing these systems is essential to giving users one place to go and achieving anticipated efficiencies.