ASG-Safari™: The Ideal Reporting Solution for Amherst College
|Location||Amherst, Massachusetts, USA|
Founded in 1821, Amherst College is widely regarded as the premier liberal arts college in the nation, enrolling a diverse group of approximately 1,600 students. Amherst offers the B.A. degree in 33 fields of study. It is a member of the Five Colleges, a consortium with nearby Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Amherst’s distinguished group of alumni, numbering more than 18,000, includes three Nobel laureates, numerous Pulitzer Prize winners, the president of the National Urban League, a chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, several National Book Award winners, and a U.S. president. Nearly 70% of Amherst's alumni population makes a gift to Amherst each year – the highest alumni participation rate in the country.
When Amherst College decided to automate portions of its operation 30 years ago, commercial software was not available and in-house software development was the only viable option. A large and highly skilled staff developed a system that was very progressive for its time. However, by the year 2000, the underlying technology could no longer be readily adapted to meet future needs. The institution decided that an integrated commercial package could best position Amherst to take advantage of information technology opportunities now and in the future. Accordingly, Amherst contracted with Ellucian, Inc. for an institution-wide information system encompassing a broad array of software and implementation services. Headquartered in Fairfax, VA, Ellucian is a leading provider of advanced information management solutions exclusively for higher education, with more than 650 client institutions throughout North America. The integrated Ellucian Colleague® enterprise resource planning (ERP) system enables colleges and universities to manage enterprise data across five key areas: Enrollment and Student Services, Financial Aid, Human Resources, Institutional Advancement, and Finance.
The primary goal of Amherst College's multi-year effort was to provide a complete, effective, integrated, easily accessed, and easily used college-wide information system. Direct access to reliable, consistent, and timely information for the entire college community was a fundamental objective requiring a first-class reporting tool. Ellucian recommended the ASG-Safari™ reporting suite.
Today, Amherst College uses a number of tools from the ASG-Safari reporting suite, including ASG-Safari InfoServer™ with the UniData interface, ASG-Safari ReportWriter™ for report creation, ASG-Safari Administrator™ for View creation and maintenance, and ASG-Safari OpenAccess™ for data transferal.
This combination of solutions has made information more accessible to users at all skill levels, and opened reporting to a more extensive range of casual users. Not only do the “usual suspects” in Admissions, HR, and Institutional Research utilize ASG-Safari’s reporting capabilities, new groups such as Athletics and other academic departments actively benefit from the solution as well.
The group responsible for deploying ASG-Safari throughout Amherst created a core set of basic reports. It also trained key users on how to use the basic reports as a foundation, and then to customize them to address their specific reporting requirements.
One of the first groups to deploy the new ASG-Safari reporting solution was the Comptroller/Treasurer’s Office. This department uses ASG-Safari extensively with Colleague Finance Projects Accounting. One of the key components most attractive to this group was the ability to "lock down" or further secure critical information via Colleague's record-level security. This feature permits the Treasurer’s Office to make information available via ASG-Safari ReportWriter or Microsoft® Excel, while maintaining appropriate controls over sensitive information.
The implementation of ASG-Safari has also permitted certain groups to deliver critical information directly to a user’s desktop, eliminating the need for printed reports. ASG-Safari OpenAccess has been critical to the success of this particular initiative.
The implementation of ASG-Safari has permitted Amherst to achieve its primary goal of making more data available to more users. Overall, 200+ employees use ASG-Safari on a regular basis, taking advantage of the 300 Views (data joins) and more than 400 reports that have been created.
As a result of the ASG-Safari deployment, one new use of information provides a wealth of information for the Comptroller’s Office. This task takes the Views created in ASG-Safari Administrator and exports the data via ASG-Safari OpenAccess into SQL Server tables, where it is further analyzed by accountants. More than 1.7 million records are exported on a weekly basis. This task would not be possible without the use of ASG-Safari as the interim step; the ASG-Safari Views help organize the data appropriately and remove any overhead that might otherwise be present.
Users involved with the Annual Fund utilize ASG-Safari in a similar way. Information stored in ASG-Safari Views is also transferred via ASG-Safari OpenAccess into SQL Server tables. Reports based on these tables are then made available via PHP on Amherst’s secure Web site to alumni throughout the world. Although the system had originally been designed to incorporate a "live call" to the data, the snapshots of data contained in these SQL Server tables ensure that the system is protected against system downtime, that the reporting system is always available, and that the information is returned more quickly and with greater accountability.
With up to 1,500 alumni soliciting donations from their classmates on a regular basis, having reliable access to information is critical. Results of this fundraising effort are exceptional: Amherst regularly receives donations from 65-70% of its alumni and collects annual donations of approximately $7.5 million. According to Paul Billings, Project Manager for Amherst, “We would not have been as successful if we had not included ASG-Safari in our implementation. ASG-Safari is our standard and primary reporting tool.”