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The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) took a close look at its business intelligence (BI) capabilities as part of its larger strategic program of enhancing agency performance and accountability. Traditionally, ERS had access to large quantity of data; however, the organization’s mix of reporting tools did not provide the flexibility and speed needed to respond to information requests.
ERS collaborated with Accenture to build a BI framework that links data from different sources across the organization into a single data warehouse.
As a result of the project:
The Texas (ERS) administers retirement, health, insurance and other benefits for more than half a million state and higher education employees, retirees, and their eligible family members. In an era of constrained resources, ERS is seeking new approaches to meet its expanding needs with less. As part of its larger strategic program of enhancing agency performance and accountability, ERS took a close look at its business intelligence BI capabilities.
The agency strongly believed it needed to use many sources of data to drive smart decisions based on fact and experience. Traditionally ERS had access to large quantity of data; however, the organization’s mix of reporting tools (including SQL scripts, BI query and Crystal Reports to extract actuarial, insurance, annuity and member data) did not provide the flexibility and speed needed to respond to both internal and external information requests. The IT department was strained as it tried to keep up with these request using tools to manually manipulate the data located in different sources throughout the organization.
ERS sought a BI solution that would:
ERS partnered with Accenture to build a BI framework that links data from different sources across the organization into a single data warehouse and allows for simplified reporting using the Microsoft Business Intelligence stack.
The majority of the effort concentrated on building the core database engine using SQL Server as the basis of the data warehouse. The Accenture team used SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) to move a subset of customer benefit data from the PeopleSoft Oracle database to a datamart in SQL Server, and to extract data from a third-party administrator’s flat files to the SQL datamart.
Microsoft Excel’s rich functionality and well-understood interface allows the business user to manipulate the data to focus at extreme granular levels or at high-level summations and counts. Therefore, business users now have unprecedented flexibility to create reports at either the extremely granular or the broad summation levels using this common office productivity tool.
Moreover, ERS business users also have the ability to design scorecards using the same single data source (online analytical processing cube) to show graphic depictions of the data. Using this cube technology allowed ERS to have increased understanding and usage of data being analyzed. These scorecards are published through Microsoft Office Sharepoint Services (MOSS). Dashboards are displayed in the MOSS portal framework for departments to track metrics against the desired KPIs, typically on a weekly basis.
Accenture has integrated data from disparate source systems, consolidating and centralizing information. Thanks to the new BI analysis and reporting tools in the framework, business users are able to analyze large amounts of data for executive summary information (KPI), to drill down to more granular information, to generate quick reports and to conduct advanced analysis and forecasting.
From the perspective of smart resource use, by providing business users direct/secure access to the data via a familiar Microsoft user interface, ERS has alleviated dependence on its IT department for pulling data together and manipulating it manually.
At a broader level, ERS as an organization overall is now able to use its data in ways that before could only have been envisioned. Now reports, scorecards and new metrics can be created, built and deployed by selected business users in a matter of minutes, as opposed to weeks and months. Moreover, reporting will only improve over time. As more KPIs from other departments are identified and built into the data warehouse, these self-service, ad-hoc Excel reports, scorecards and dashboards will become even more rich and meaningful.
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