Customer Insights | Higher Education

Gayle Maxwell Francis TuttleGayle Maxwell has been with Francis Tuttle Technology for 15 years and has worked in several positions before joining the IT Department in 2006.  She is in charge of submission of all the Career Students data to the state department and the Federal Department.  She works with Laura Manahan on the reporting portion of iDashboards.  She loves to see people light up when what they have been struggling with on getting information is now at their fingertips!

Laura Manahan Francis TuttleLaura Manahan has been with Francis Tuttle Technology for over 10 years where she has always been heavily involved in the data process.  She currently works for the Deputy Superintendent and is one of the key staff responsible for all dashboard projects, as well as institutional data structures and data integrity.  She describes herself as a data junkie and loves to dig and find the answers needed. She says one of the greatest satisfactions she receives in her job is being able to bring clean, useful data to life using iDashboards.

Francis Tuttle Technology Proves Dashboards are a Must

Gayle E. Maxwell started at Francis Tuttle Technology Center as an enrollment consultant. Driven by a passion to know the “whys” of what the school did, she moved through the ranks of Francis Tuttle and now works as a report writer in IT to collect data and develop reports. Here, Gayle found a new way to discover the answers to the ever-imperative question, “Why?”

Laura Manahan, a data analyst at Francis Tuttle, works side-by-side with Gayle and joined us to explain the ins and outs of data reporting in the realm of public education.

iDashboards: Why do you think dashboards have become important in Education?

Gayle Maxwell: Administrators see live data each morning in strategic areas so they can make better decisions.

Laura Manahan: It literally gives us our information at a glance – we can see our successes, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in a simple format.

What did your reporting process look like before iDashboards?

Laura: Stacks of reports, nothing was easy to find or see. Now, everything is at our fingertips when we need it.

How did you generate institutional support for dashboards?

Gayle: Our dashboard platform, iDashboards, didn’t drain our database admin personnel and the reporting worked with Crystal, so I could pull reports, it made a win-win situation! I do need a few fields now and then from our database administrator, but for the most part, we are successful because it just takes the two of us to get a report out very quickly.

higher education dashboardsLaura: We had just finished a long data integrity initiative where we brought all of our data into alignment and developed processes and governance to ensure it stayed that way. Our administrators were finally able to rely on the data they were provided, so they were hungrier than ever to get that data into an easy-to-visualize format and at their fingertips. When Gayle and I brought iDashboards for their approval and were able to show them it gave them everything they wanted, they were very excited. Now one of the first things they ask is, “Can we have a dashboard for that?” This lets us know, as dashboard administrators, we’ve done our job and iDashboards was the right choice. As far as our IT department, it was an easy sell to their director because it wasn’t going to put more strain on their small department. This is a product Gayle and I can accommodate on our own, other than when product upgrades are needed.

What was the main factor in your decision-making?

Gayle: Ease-of-use, the cost, the visual presence, and the ability to build the dashboards.

Laura: Specifically, ease-of-use by non-IT staff.

What was your biggest challenge during implementation?

Gayle: To figure out how we wanted the graphs to look.

Laura: Taking on too much. Deciding what to do first!

What do you wish you had done differently, knowing what you know now? 

Laura: If I had anything to do over, I would say, let your administrators know up front you will do everything in your power to meet their needs quickly and efficiently – but give them a realistic knowledge of the work involved and timelines.

Gayle: We were very excited to show off this great new tool, but we were selling it too well! Like Laura said, we needed to give our administrators some realistic time frames on what they wanted to see.  With that being said, we also knew how long they had been waiting for this very tool. One of my strengths and weaknesses is striving to get projects done and on time. To my fault, but it is such an exciting time!

By incorporating dashboards into your routine, how much time do you feel you have saved? 

Laura: For administrators and users of the dashboards, I would say they’ve saved days – and sometimes weeks – of time getting the data they need. Not having to physically sort through stacks of data is priceless. As administrators of the dashboards, early on it took us anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month to get a dashboard up and going.  Now, for most needs, we can have a dashboard ready in less than a week and in most cases a day or two. Each time we develop a new dashboard, we learn something new and innovative and we find quicker ways to get what we need.

Gayle: On the IT side of things, we see the data in one place and are told where to look. This has saved me time in that once we get the dashboard done and have proven the accuracy of the report, the buy-in from our staff is awesome. We did have reports in our “Info Central,” but they were not as easy to understand as a dashboard view.

Not having to physically sort through stacks of #data is priceless. -Laura M. Click To Tweet

What systems and tools do you use in conjunction with iDashboards?

Gayle: Our data sources are ODBC, Crystal Reports, and Excel.

Laura: Colleague by Ellucian is our current student information system. We use iDashboards in conjunction with Colleague to develop most of our dashboards. Our institution is also in the middle of a streamlining software process to see if all of our products are what we need and if there is overlap. Gayle and I have no worries about using iDashboards because we know it can work with just about anything we choose in the future.

What are the three most important metrics you track?

Gayle: Capacity, industry certifications, and sending school enrollment statistics.

Tell us your favorite part about dashboards.

Gayle: The Capacity Dashboard is updated automatically every night, so when the Administrators come in each morning they can see very easily where we are, by all Campuses, an individual Campus, and by Director – at your fingertips!

Laura: For years, we have had to manually compile and find key information about applications and enrollments for our 11 sending high schools. This year, we were able to take all of the various measures and put them into Crystal reports, which then drives 13 current charts to give them up-to-date data, as we are in our crucial enrollment and withdraw periods. As we’ve developed these dashboards, a group of key administrators has given input and we’ve actually made several creative changes in no time at all to give them what they need. We couldn’t have done this without the flexibility and ease of use we find in dashboards.

How have dashboards changed the way people consume and understand your data? 

Gayle: It is so much clearer, and shows Administrators in a few short clicks what they need to see. We created a dashboard from a report that previously took weeks to get all the data collected and in a report format. Now it’s at their fingertips daily. It also shows our bad data quickly, so this helps fix errors faster!

Laura: Having the data at their fingertips for key strategic measures has allowed our administrators and constituents to get the information they need without having to dig through stacks of data. They have their information with them at all times, whether it be at their desk computer, their iPad or smartphones. It has also sparked a new drive to have more information in this format. They are seeing the creative ways they can have their data displayed, and that is exciting for all of us.

What advice would you give to other companies in your industry looking to improve their reporting?

Gayle: Use dashboards! We tell anyone near us that they can come see what we are doing.

Laura: Dashboards are a wonderful tool – very user-friendly and powerful.

Use dashboards! We tell anyone near us that they can come see what we are doing. - Gayle M Click To Tweet

Anything else you’d like to share?

Gayle: We could not be happier with this product.

Laura: iDashboards is hitting it out of the park right now with their “customer focus,” and it’s our hope we can still say this many years from now.  It is becoming rarer to find companies like this and it is still sorely needed.

Read next: Tips & Tricks to Rediscover the Truth in Data Reporting

Reporting Made Easy for Educators

At iDashboards, we offer data reporting that will have your team asking, “Can we get a dashboard for that?” If you work in education, you understand the value of knowledge, and that’s exactly what a dashboard is: the power to share and distribute information. If you’re interested in learning more about iDashboards, ask about our free, 30-day trial.

We want to hear from you! If you liked what you read here, give us a thumbs up on social media. Even better, share this article to start the data reporting conversation in your circle.

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Jennifer Horne Sr. Digital Marketing Coordinator @iDashboards

Jennifer Horne handles SEO, PPC, content and digital marketing for iDashboards. She has won multiple 30 Rock trivia competitions, makes a mean green curry, and loves living in Detroit.


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