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BI Solution Helps State of Utah Provide Quality Financial Systems

by Brent Sanderson
Using a BI solution to create quality financial systems for the State of Utah.

The mission of the finance division within Utah’s Department of Administrative Services is to serve the citizens of Utah and state agencies by providing quality financial systems, processes, and information. This team is charged with developing the computer tools that will enable personnel in state agencies to access the division’s data warehouse, which contains financial, personnel, and payroll information. Their mission is to develop quality financial information in an efficient manner for all of state government to enhance the ability of managers to make sound business decisions. The Finance Data Warehouse currently contains more than 65 million rows of information, available online to managers and financial analysts statewide.

Challenges Faced
· Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) was difficult to administer
· Backlogged customer requests made communication difficult
· Web-based solution was needed for employees across the state

The Administrative Services department implemented a data warehouse in 1994 and it is currently accessed by nearly 800 employees in various departments across the state. Previously, data was extracted via ODBC, and Access and Excel were used to analyze the data. Communication problems resulted and the division spent most of its time showing employees how to fix ODBC problems. Requests became backlogged, changes had to be made at the PC level, and administration became a nightmare.
We knew we needed a solution that would run over the Web and if changes were required, they could be made easily in one or two places instead of on every individual PC.

After looking at several business intelligence vendors, the State of Utah chose Cognos. We had 33 specific things we wanted vendors to demonstrate in our selection process, such as ways of analyzing data and ease-of-use. Cognos was the only one able to demonstrate all of them; and the products offer a lot of flexibility. They have a much cleaner Web implementation and do not require plug-ins, which is a big plus.

“We had 33 specific things we wanted vendors to demonstrate in our selection process, such as ways of analyzing data and ease-of-use. Cognos was the only one able to demonstrate all of them.”

— Brent Sanderson, Information Technology Manager, Department of Administrative Services, State of Utah


Benefits Realized
· Simple installation and administration
· Recovered 50 percent of staff time
· Improved information culture

 

One of the biggest benefits of deploying Cognos is the ease of installation and administration. Our team was able to install the product without the use of consulting services and administration has been quick and easy. It’s easier to upgrade and has saved us huge amounts of time over the past three years. The time the LAN administrators have saved alone has probably paid for our investment.

We have also been able to recover 50 percent of our time. Before deploying Cognos, five people were spending half their time dealing with ODBC communication issues. This is no longer an issue.

The product has also helped change the culture within the public service ranks in Utah. For instance, government entities within Utah make many different types of payments to thousands of different people, including tax refunds and payments for services. To keep track of all payments is a huge administrative task. Administrative Services introduced a payment tracking system that tracks all of the electronic and manual printouts of payments. Staff can now access the data warehouse and immediately see the status of a payment.

Each month Administrative Services will have 60,000 to 70,000 queries against the data. With this system, accounting officers and financial managers are more effectively managing the overall operations of the division or department.

Brent Sanderson -

Brent Sanderson is the Information Technology Manager, Department of Administrative Services, State of Utah.