Beyond the Classroom : MS-MIS Students Tackle Data Management Project for TUSD
By Liz Warren-Pederson
This fall, MS-MIS students are continuing to work on a large-scale data management project for Tucson Unified School District.
“CEOs need to see a complete picture of how their organization is doing,” says Sudha Ram, McClelland Professor of MIS. “They need to measure the extent to which the company is fulfilling its mission and achieving its goals so they can make better strategic decisions.” The challenge? Managing all the data, so that performance metrics in key areas — such as financial, supply chain management, and customer relationship management — all feed into one data warehouse from which reports can be generated.
David Edwards, data warehouse architect with Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Technology Services, is no stranger to the challenge. He’s been working to create a business intelligence (BI) infrastructure for the organization.
“I’m a department of one,” he says. “And TUSD has 120 schools, 55,000 students, and 10,000 employees. So I reached out to the University to see what possible help I could find.” He connected with Ram, who brought the project to the master’s of MIS students in her BI class.
“BI is an area with a lot of growth, especially in a recession,” she says. “These students want to develop careers in BI, learn how to build dashboards, and then implement them. The TUSD project is great because they get to design and implement the complete cycle.” Ram says that experiential learning is especially important in her BI class; previous classes have worked on projects with Intuit and the UA MOSAIC team.
“It is hard to find projects for beginners like me to work in all phases of BI lifecycle,” says Manoj Kumar Varatharajan (MS-MIS ’10). “This project gives me a good understanding of the theory and real-time implementation. I strongly believe that this opportunity will improve my competency level and meet industry expectations.”
After graduating in December, Jagdeep Kalsi (MS-MIS ’08) worked on the project on a volunteer basis. “I wanted to gain some real-world experience in the BI field while I was looking for a permanent full-time job,” he says. “Working with David gave me the opportunity to interact with real business leaders and understand that kind of issues they deal with on a day-to-day basis.”
“The scope of this project is huge,” says Edwards. “We split the students into four teams to cover analysis in payroll, financials, technical support, and student management.” Each student team had a project manager and a sponsor at TUSD. The teams worked with data in PeopleSoft, technical support tracking software, and a student database. “We have cutting-edge tools to use, across the whole end-to-end lifecycle,” Edwards says.
“My team took on the BI initiative for the finance division,” says Varatharajan. “Our aim is to complete the prototype and demonstrate its capability to the stakeholders.”“I was the team leader for the technology services group,” says Kalsi. “My primary responsibility was to work with my team to understand the current business processes that they follow, the way they measure their performance, and how they interact with the TUSD community. We were also involved in the technical aspects of designing the data.” Kalsi, Varatharajan, and seven of the other MS-MIS students are planning to continue to work on the project through the fall semester.