The Texas A&M University System (the A&M System) engaged Accenture Inc. (Accenture) to conduct a comprehensive review of the A&M System’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) enterprise reporting practice and the strategic reporting needs of the A&M System.
The Financial Systems Modernization project provided the opportunity and funding to conduct the assessment. A stakeholder survey conducted in 2017 presented enhanced reporting as one of the primary needs across the A&M System.
The comprehensive review included the following components and objectives:
- Analyze the current state – including technology, capacity, expertise, maturity, strategy, and methodology
- Provide recommendations for future state – both technologically and organizationally
Assessment Focus Areas and Deliverables
Accenture organized their engagement around the following ten areas and provided detailed deliverables for each area.
- Identify Changes Needed in Current Reporting Infrastructure
- Assess the Current Organizational Model
- Assess the Data Transformation Life Cycle
- Recommendations for a Security Model
- Data Governance
- Report Interaction
- Departmental “Shadow” Financial Reporting Systems
- Report Delivery
- Recommend Technical Solutions that will Address Future Needs
- Annual Financial Report (AFR) Recommendations
Engagement with Accenture
The A&M System’s OIT engagement with Accenture started April 28, 2020 and concluded July 30, 2020.
Accenture conducted over 24 interviews with A&M System OIT staff and stakeholders across the A&M System. The stakeholders were comprised of the following roles – Research Administrators, Department Administrators, Budget and Finance Administrators, CFOs, CIOs, Comptrollers, HROs, Dean of Faculty, and Academic Analysts.
They assessed the A&M System’s OIT reporting capability both from a technical and business perspective.
- Comprehensive review – technology and customer interaction
- Highlight current state, what is working, and what are the challenges
- Recommendations for future state
- Recommendations for process change
- Identify changes needed to meet near and future business, technical, and organizational needs
- What is the A&M System’s OIT current reporting technology configuration?
- What is the A&M System’s OIT application development technology?
- What systems/tools do stakeholders across the A&M System use to meet their current reporting deficiencies?
- What are the reporting needs of the various stakeholders across the A&M System?
- What reporting needs are being met by the A&M System OIT Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) team?
- What are the short-term opportunities to enhance/modernize reporting?
- What are the long-term opportunities to enhance/modernize reporting?
- What are the technical abilities of our stakeholders across the A&M System?
- What services are provided by the A&M System OIT EDW team?
- What is included in the A&M System OIT EDW portfolio?
What the A&M System OIT Learned
The assessment was conducted by Accenture analyzing each of the ten areas in detail and then submitting a recommendation per area to the Reporting Modernization Leadership Team. Accenture noted the overlap and dependencies from one area to another in their delivered documentation.
The following items emerged as the key themes from the assessment:
- Personalized dashboards with metrics tailored to members of the A&M System and to individual roles
- Self-service visualization and reporting tool that allows users to select from pre-defined content and also allows for customization
- Report scheduling tool that provides more efficient automated bursting and scheduling to report authors, and allows an individual to manage their own report subscriptions
- Curated and governed reports for the “Casual User” to run on demand by providing the appropriate parameters
For the past 15 years the A&M System OIT has invested in BusinessObjects as its primary delivery and ad hoc-reporting tool.
- The A&M System OIT should alter its BusinessObjects license model to allow for the expansion of capacity and improved performance
- The A&M System OIT will need to continue to support and leverage BusinessObjects to meet user needs and satisfy the installed base by:
- Using and leveraging the report subscription feature
- Upgrading to the latest version of BusinessObjects, version 4.3
- Using domain security enabled by Okta to manage access to the data – this should enable a broader reach through row-based security
- BusinessObjects should not be the foundation for the vision and technological future of the A&M System OIT
- Expect to continue to support BusinessObjects for at least 3-5 years
- BusinessObjects may remain as a tool within the A&M System OIT, but it will likely focus on the “Power User” and ad hoc analysis
- Ad hoc capabilities of BusinessObjects Web Intelligence are valuable to many people, but are not able to meet the broader organizational needs of the A&M System
- Stakeholders need and want more standard and curated reports
- Emailing reports is a common way people have received reports and this should continue
- Large demand for dashboards, but customization tailored to members of the A&M System and to individual roles is key
- Experience with data should be tailored to the individual and their role
- Stakeholders have concerns about data quality and data gaps
- Stakeholders do not know what data is available – citing “tribal” learning as a hurdle for using existing tools
- Not everyone prefers to write reports from scratch with an ad hoc tool
- There is a need to merge data from multiple sources (e.g. Student data merged with Financial data, Research data merged with Financial data) – which can be difficult for the “Casual User”
- Report scheduling is cumbersome and highly manual
- Better understanding, documentation, and cataloging of data is needed to help stakeholders find the data that they need and allow for better understanding of the data they can access
- Data definitions need to be agreed upon by stakeholders
- A&M System OIT staff needs better tools to assist in documentation and governance
- A&M System OIT may want to establish the role of Chief Data Officer – build up the data culture, lead strategic thinking about data, and partner with stakeholders
A user group (or knowledge-sharing group) should be put in place to better foster and encourage shared reports and the exchange of information across the A&M System.
- Training is an ongoing need for stakeholders across the A&M System and the A&M System OIT EDW team must find ways to deliver:
- Training on the data and core data meanings
- Training for reporting tools (e.g. BusinessObjects)
- Training that is smaller and focused
- How-to videos for stakeholders
- Potential for the A&M System OIT shared services
- Overall need to drive collaboration across the members in the A&M System at the department and college level
- The A&M System OIT EDW team is constrained with limited capacity
- Contributing factors include a vacant position and the current size of the backlog and technical debt
- The A&M System OIT EDW team is relatively small compared to peer institutions with similar missions (see examples in table)
|Organization Name||EDW/Data Platform Team Size||Centralized Reporting Team Size|
|Texas A&M University System||2||4|
|University of California System||4||32|
|University of Texas at Austin||Included in reporting team size||14|
|University of North Carolina System||Not publicly available||10|
- The current practice of curating data for targeted use by stakeholders across the A&M System must continue
- The implementation of a data lake with un-curated data can and should be pursued
- The A&M System OIT has an opportunity to adapt current FAMIS reports to help meet the needs of departments and colleges across the A&M System
- Most stakeholders that support “shadow” financial reporting systems have communicated that they would be willing to retire these systems if a central reporting system met their needs
- The needs of this central reporting system would need to extend beyond simple reporting and include data augmentation as well as custom classification of data
- Accenture recommends that the A&M System OIT move forward with new technology built on Microsoft’s Power BI and Azure toolset
- Investing in Microsoft Business Intelligence solutions aligns reporting capabilities with the existing reporting technology and a re-platformed FAMIS
- A Power BI proof of concept should be conducted by the A&M System OIT
- The A&M System OIT should research the features and capabilities of the cloud and establish use cases where the cloud could be beneficial
- The purpose of this project is to replace the current AFR process. This initiative should be initiated as part of the Financial System Modernization project.
- This project is needed to reduce the risk of the current infrastructure, streamline the AFR process, create efficiencies, provide an enhanced toolset, etc.
- Several possible vendors were evaluated and a shortlist of recommendations was provided by Accenture
- The A&M System OIT should continue their investment into Workday Prism, People Analytics, and Discovery Boards, but should leverage these tools primarily for Workday data
- Note – Workday Discovery Boards will not be available to stakeholders until Workday adds some necessary features