For trendsetters, by trendsetters

For trendsetters, by trendsetters

Finding trends in data can be difficult. Especially when there is no single source to extract data from, and when different factors influence data figures.

Indiana University’s human resources department came to realize this when they needed to report on FTE (full-time employee) and headcount trends. Luckily, the Decision Support Initiative (DSI) was able to help build a centralized data source and create easily digestible visualizations to accompany that data.

IU’s Patricia Goodall, data manager/data analyst in academic affairs, and Laura Kress, university director of HR records and information management services, faced a problem. For executives and university administrators to do their jobs, they need to analyze employee headcount data. This data helps them make informed decisions relating to the composition of the employee headcount. But getting the same data across the board, from one collective source, was proving difficult.

These decision makers had access to many different places to get a headcount, but it wasn’t accessible to them in a form they could consume easily and see changes over time. Sometimes different teams would respond to different requests. Sometimes the data parameters would change, which would yield differing results. The information pulled was very ad hoc.

“We really didn’t have a good way to show employee count trends—not without exporting count summaries and creating graphs outside of the data warehouse,” said Goodall. In a close collaboration with Kress and the DSI team at Enterprise Software, they came up with four different dashboards to answer the team’s business questions.

The new dashboards allow users to interact with the information in a way not possible before with static reports. Executives and administrators are now able to explore the trend data in various ways by filtering, for example, by campus, responsibility center, organization, and employee group type.

“This concept of using visualizations and analytic tools to support decision making is a new culture,” said Richard Shepherd, business intelligence manager at Enterprise Software and DSI team member. “Sometimes we need to work with people to help them make that leap from ‘I need to see a trend in salaries’ to ‘Well, why? What are the business questions you need to answer, and how can we design a visualization that informs the decision making process?’.” The DSI team has ways to help clients visualize data that spotlights the things clients really want to know.

Employees such as Jody Vaught, director of business affairs/budget at IU’s School of Public Health, is one of the beneficiaries of this collaboration. She uses the FTE headcount tool to pull headcount numbers for accreditation, assessments, and other reporting within the school. With the tool, Vaught is able to clearly see data that each campus uses for its assessment purposes and so can understand the decisions her people are making.

“With everyone using the same numbers, they are consistent and reliable,” Vaught said. “And the added bonus of being able to filter through data is a great feature.”

As DSI’s first deliverable, the FTE headcount tool not only helps find trends in data, but it sets the trend for helping IU make better, data-driven decisions much more easily.