In last month’s blog, Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Better, It Does – UT System Dashboard Gets a Facelift, I let you know that the UT System Dashboard is undergoing a number of updates for its new 2.0 version. The changes, however, are not just for cosmetic reasons – au contraire mes amis. The Metric and Design & Technical workgroups are augmenting and enhancing the tool from the very foundation outward.
The Planning Phase
While no nips and tucks have been made yet, the two teams of analytical surgeons – members of the Metric and the Design & Technical workgroups – have each had their first meeting and are forging ahead with the process of dashboard revitalization.
- Jessica Shedd, Workgroup Chair / Assistant Director for Research & Reporting, OSI
- Leslie Carruth / Director for Center of Healthcare Value, Office of Health Affairs
- Cathy Delgado / Research & Policy Analyst, OSI
- Meredith Goode / Research & Policy Analyst, Office of Academic Affairs
- Thomas Guajardo / Assistant Vice Chancellor, Government Relations, Office of the Controller
- Theresa Johnson / Senior Business Analyst, Office of Technology Commercialization
- Miriam McKinney / Institutional Research Analyst, OSI
This team’s charge is to identify the most appropriate metrics (not just simple counts) to best describe UT System’s key activities accurately, with an emphasis on whether or not the metric can be benchmarked to peers or benchmarked nationally. These metrics are to feature a clear, straightforward indication of the critical operations of UT System institutions in order to help “tell our story” and measure performance.
Having already met twice in the last month, the Metric Workgroup has lost no time in tackling the questions:
- Who is the target audience for the dashboard and each metric?
- Should we hone down to fewer metrics with more context?
- What are the key metrics that will focus users on actionable information? Which ones can be benchmarked?
The team discussed various metrics: inputs, process metrics, and output metrics. A list of metrics currently displayed on the current UT System Dashboard and in other accountability related reports was distributed. The team followed line by line to determine which metrics may rise to the level of being a key indicator for Dashboard 2.0., and which ones should be changed or enhanced. In addition, a list of various metrics used on other institutional and system dashboards and sites (but not on UT System’s) was scrutinized as part of the metric selection process.
Design & Technical Workgroup
- Annette Royal, Co-Chair / Assistant Director for Business Intelligence, OSI
- Paula Bales, Co-Chair / Communications Coordinator, OSI
- Cindy Chang / Senior Application Developer, OSI
- Nancy Daniels / Communications Specialist, OSI
- Daniel Garza / Director, Market Research Program Development, ITL
- Mehran Poursmaeili / Senior Graphics Designer, External Relations
- Colter Starr / Systems Analyst, OSI / Milo Peterson, Supervisor of Information Systems, OSI
- Michael Trevino / Assistant Director for Online Communication, External Relations
- Jeff White / ETL Specialist, OSI
While analytical substance remains paramount, the dashboard veneer is getting scrutinized, as well, promising an efficient and user friendly tool that is also attractive. To achieve these task components, the Design & Technical workgroup is focused on visualizations, design, and technology.
The first meeting focused mainly on user experience, including preliminary discussions surrounding:
- Mockup of launch page
- Creation of new portal and “jumping off point”
- What technology will be used?
- What can do with existing tools for a new look and feel
Follow along as the Metric and Design & Technical teams work through the process of planning, developing, testing, and implementing, as well as the inevitable revising and revamping of Dashboard 2.0. Sign up to receive the Dash It All newsletter at email@example.com.
The Office of Strategic Initiatives welcomes Milo Peterson as its new Supervisor of Information Systems. Milo was born and raised in Upstate New York – but I wouldn’t give him any guff about coming from north of the Mason-Dixon Line. In addition to being an IT specialist, Milo served in the United States Marine Corps and is a certified personal trainer.
Prior to joining OSI, Milo served as the manager of the IT Help Desk and Access Management departments for the State Comptroller’s Office. He has also worked for Johnson & Johnson, where he was a senior programmer/analyst, and at Applied Benefits Research, Inc. and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Milo gained experience as a financial analyst, billing operations manager, and ultimately as a special projects manager while working at MCI/WorldCom Inc.
As OSI’s Supervisor of Information Systems, Milo will manage the development of technical projects, as well as supervise new project planning and programming. He will also develop strategies for new technical program initiatives. His responsibilities additionally include managing systems already in production and providing production system customer service for clients and customers. He is currently working on his Project Management certification.
On a personal note, after serving in the Marine Corps, Milo married his high school sweetheart. They settled in Florida where he attended Tampa College (now known as Everest University-Tampa) and received a BS degree in Computer Science. In addition to raising three children – a 21-year-old son and twin 16-year-old daughters – Milo is a certified personal trainer.
The UT System Productivity Dashboard is what we call our publicly accessible, external-facing suite of business intelligence tools that includes Web-based applications for extracting and analyzing institutional data that is made available to the public in a way that promotes accountability and transparency. The Dashboard serves a varied audience, including System and campus leadership, legislators, as well as prospective students and their parents. The Dashboard was developed in 2011 as part of Chancellor Cigarroa’s Framework for Advancing Excellence. After three successful years, however, the interactive system is ready for its next stage of development.
Dashboard 2.0 Revitalization Project Kick-Off
Earlier this month, OSI began the development and design phase of Dashboard 2.0. We kicked off the revitalization process with an all-day meeting on June 5th. The initial group was small to allow for a round-table discussion of what we have and what we need to do to take the UT System Dashboard to the next level. Some of the questions posed to promote discussion included:
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of our current Productivity Dashboard?
- What are the fundamental objectives that will guide us in our design decisions (design principles)?
- What is the right format/display for Dashboard 2.0?
- What are the key metrics that will focus users on actionable information?
- How should the Dashboard be structured and laid out to help users understand the “big picture” and yet still have the ability to find more detail when needed?
- What capabilities should the Dashboard include to help users understand and interact with the information with ease?
- Can we do more to integrate SAS BI (business intelligence) and SAS VA (visual analytics) for the purposes of the Dashboard? Do users distinguish between the two?
- Do we want our BI suite of tools to contain the following major functional components:
- production/operational reporting,
- ad hoc querying,
- pre-set hierarchies for analyzing the data vs. user-defined
How We Plan to Make Our Successful Dashboard Even More Successful
The updated Dashboard will expand, enhance, and advance the options already offered, as well as add new features, with a focus on communicating important information through key metrics and data visualizations. These changes will shift the tool from a data-centric (just the facts ma’am) model to one that will offer more analysis and measuring. We will be digging deeper into data and looking for connections and patterns, as well as developing new methodologies for measuring performance, using benchmarking and comparisons to add context.
Tackling the Job
We decided at the kick-off meeting to form two working groups – Metrics and Design & Technical – which will move parallel to each other. We also formed an advisory group to help guide the project as it moves forward.
The Metrics team is tasked with coming up with metrics to identify key indicators that will best describe the functions and activities of UT System’s institutions in clear and understandable formats. It will also consider generating special reports (comic strip style) for predictive/inferential use.
Design and Technical go hand in hand, so the members of this team will dedicate themselves to finding a practical and functional design that is best supported by the available technology. These groups will meet throughout the summer and early fall.
Don’t Miss an Exciting Moment of the Dashboard’s Revitalization as It Unfolds
I will be posting updates throughout the coming months to document the process of planning, developing, testing, and implementing, as well as the inevitable revising and revamping. We believe these updates will pique the interest of our readers – institutional research (IR) devotees and others.
We invite you to follow our progress on this project: the challenges we face, issues that arise, solutions and compromises reached. It will be both technical and philosophical in nature – what we are doing and why.
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We Value and Welcome Your Input and Suggestions
We really value our readers input and urge you to share your thoughts and suggestions with us on how you think we can develop a better Dashboard. We also welcome your feedback at email@example.com. For real-time updates, check out our Twitter feed @UTFactsOnline.
The technology shovel has hit the dirt! It’s official -
the Productivity Dashboard is getting renovated.
The Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) Team has started the process of revamping what exists, expanding what is offered, and updating the version of SAS BI and SAS VA to 2.0. We don’t want our readers to miss one iota of fun and excitement as OSI begins the process of updating the Productivity Dashboard to a new look and version. To keep you apprised of the progress, periodic reports will be made available through blogs posted here on UTFacts Online, as well as in OSI’s inaugural Dashboard newsletter Dash It All June 2014.
Lest you forget the auspicious beginnings of the Productivity Dashboard in 2011, I invite you to read our earlier blogs on the subject, beginning with A (Very) Little Background and The Project Kick Off Meeting, both posted on August 31, 2011. Progress reports were made throughout the process, up until the Dashboard went live on December 16, 2011. We’ll be doing the same thing during the renovation process.
The UT System Productivity Dashboard is not a static tool; it is always expanding. The next version – Dashboard 2.0 – is in development and will be released in a few months. In addition to letting you know what metrics have been updated and which research briefs have been completed, Dash It All will provide you a window on the revamping process – as it happens. It will give you an insight into what has been completed, what is in the works, and what projects and features are planned for the future.
We hope you will follow the Dashboard’s progress. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions about how you think we can improve and expand the Dashboard, as well as seekUT, in order to serve you better. Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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“The University of Texas is bringing a visual type of transparency to academia. It makes unprecedented amounts and sources of institutional data available on its website. Anyone with the desire and an Internet connection can slice and dice a mountain of its data in myriad ways.”
~Phil Simon, The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions; 2014, John Wiley & Sons Inc.)*
While researching my recent blog Visual Analytics and Big Data – It’s About Brain Symmetry and Titles, I found that one of the books I came across – The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions by technology writer Phil Simon – has an entire chapter dedicated to the University of Texas System. “Transparency in Texas” (chapter 5) delves into UT System’s pro-active stance on data discovery and exploration, visibility and transparency.
The Visual Organization is not about how to visualize data – it is about becoming a visual organization. Simon pegs UT System as a visual organization, along with Netflix, Autodesk, Wedgies, eBay, and other successful companies.
According to Simon, “A Visual Organization is composed of intelligent people who recognize the power of data. As such, it routinely uses contemporary, powerful, and interactive dataviz tools to ask better questions and ultimately make better business decisions. . . More advanced enterprises use interactive data-visualization applications to analyze Big Data. They recognize the inherent limitations of Small Data and static dataviz.”
Simon starts the chapter by describing UT System’s early dataviz efforts beginning in 2004 when it published its annual accountability report. He then maps the System’s progress to the present, including especially the launch of the Productivity Dashboard in 2011 that was made in response to Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s UT Framework for Advancing Excellence. The chapter also discusses the 2013 release of Explore More, the System’s mobile-friendly Visual Analytics (VA) site, and its interactive wage tool seekUT.
The author also discusses how the System has endeavored to embrace traditional business intelligence; pursue data discovery; provide nearly unprecedented visibility into the UT System, as well as into student life; and expand data visualization throughout the System. Additionally, Simon has included a number of quotes from Vice Chancellor Stephanie Huie, which serve to root the expansion of data and dataviz in UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives.
Simon wraps up the chapter by discussing UT System’s collaborative efforts with other operational departments and how it fields inquiries from various academic institutions inside and outside of Texas. He also lists some of the awards and honors that the System has received as a result of its innovations in visual analytics. The author expresses it succinctly: “UT is instructive on a number of levels. First, by embracing new sources of data and new dataviz tools, the system and its members have done much more than find the low-hanging fruit. They have laid the foundation for future data discovery.”
The conclusion? According to Simon, in an interview with Brian Sommer for the ZDNet.com blog “Software & Services Safari” (March 3, 2014), “. . .Organizations that encourage data visualization and data discovery will do better than those that fail to recognize their importance.”
Have you noticed the recent influx of books and publications surrounding the impact of dataviz (the visual representation of data) on our visual culture? I certainly have, and what I find interesting is that even though the term “visual culture” has been around for a long time, the obsession with visual analytics – especially those referencing an academic discipline – has, only of late, taken off at breakneck speed. In fact, so much so, that I would venture to say that “data visualization” may be one of the major topics of conversation among data analysts and communications specialists around their respective company water coolers. This is a strange phenomenon in and of itself, since such news about a topic relying on sight seems, at times, to be best relayed by word of mouth.
What is the reason behind the expanding trend? Think of the snowball effect. Data and dataviz, by their very nature, serve as the starting point for questions and discussions, which lead to more advanced views of data that in turn give rise to more questions. Before you know it, a question-and-answer cycle is born.
All Aboard the Data Train
What exactly is dataviz? I’m no expert, but I have gleaned from several sources that data visualization is the graphical representation of information. It is a combination of communications, information, science, and design, and it provides insight into complex data sets by communicating key aspects in more intuitive and meaningful ways. Based on the popularity of visual analytics across a number of varied disciplines, the demand for and the delivery of translatable data is accelerating. So you best hang on to your hats because unprecedented visibility is here, and the era of transparency is pulling into the descriptive statistics train station. All aboard for data discovery and exploration.
As I explained earlier, I am by no means a data expert, but I do appreciate the opportunity to use both sides of my brain as much as possible. When it comes to data visualization, I have to fire up my synapse for brain symmetry. I don’t care if an article on Live Science* debunks the myth of right-brain/left-brain, I just know that data visualization is a marriage between the analytical and the creative, and those are housed in different areas of the brain. Good news for those of you who are chart-and-graph challenged – as visual analytics takes hold, big data may just start making more sense to you, and, if I may be so bold to predict, enrich your life . . . at least when it comes to research resources.
For the Data Phobic
And if you are more than a little data phobic, you may be able to overcome your aversion to computational clusters by glancing through a growing library of books dedicated to big data, data analysis, visual analytics, dataviz, et al. There is no shortage of books about this aspect of visual culture. There’s even a little creativity involved in the naming of these explain-it-all books.** Non sequitur at times, the titles seem to be geared to a myriad of readers’ interests. Together they sound as though they might delve into the world of necromancy and oceanography, as well as offer cures for depression, termites, ED, gridlock, and hunger.
- Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger)
- Big Data at Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities (Thomas H. Davenport)
- Taming The Big Data Tidal Wave: Finding Opportunities in Huge Data Streams with Advanced Analytics (Bill Franks)
- Hadoop: The Definitive Guide helps you harness the power of your data (Tom White)
- The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions (Phil Simon)
Love and Romance
- Big Data Demystified: How Big Data Is Changing the Way We Live, Love and Learn (David Feinleib)
- Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data (Charles Wheelan)
- Hadoop Operations and Cluster Management Cookbook (Shumin Guo)
- Big Data Application Architecture Pattern Recipes: A Problem – Solution Approach (Nitin Sawant, Himanshu Shah)
- 25 Recipes for Getting Started with R (Paul Teetor)
- Clojure Data Analysis Cookbook (Eric Rochest)
Sports and Martial Arts
- Data Jujitsu: The Art of Turning Data into Product (D.J. Patil)
- Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Michael Lewis)
Dr. Seuss – it’s a rhyming thing
- Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die (Eric Siegel)
- Big Data for Dummies (Judith Hurwitz)
- The Visual Experience (Jack Hobbs, Richard A. Salome, Ken Vieth)
- Practices of Looking : An Introduction to Visual Culture (Marita Sturken, Lisa Cartwright)
- Expanding the Frontiers of Visual Analytics and Visualization (John Dill, Rae Earnshaw, David Kasik, John Vince, Pak Chung Wong)
- Visual Analytics of Movement (G. Andrienko, N. Andrienko, P. Bak, D. Keim, S. Wrobel)
- Mastering The Information Age – Solving Problems with Visual Analytics (Daniel A. Keim, Jörn Kohlhammer, Geoffrey Ellis, Florian Mansmann)
* Christopher Wanjek (columnist), “Left Brain vs. Right: It’s a Myth, Research Finds,” Live Science, 3 September 2013, http://www.livescience.com/39373-left-brain-right-brain-myth.html (accessed 18 June 2014)
**The inclusion of any book title in this article does not constitute endorsement. They appear purely for editorial purposes.
American entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” But in the case of OSI new hire, Cindy Chang, Rohn’s quote could also read, “It gets better by Chang.” On June 16, Cindy joins OSI as a Senior Applications Development Analyst.
This isn’t Cindy Chang’s first rodeo – she has a long and loyal history with the University of Texas at Austin where she obtained both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mathematics. She has been an employee with UT Austin for more than 11 years and has spent the last 10+ years as a Systems Analyst and Senior Software Developer/Analyst in various departments on campus, including the Office of the Registrar and the Center for Teaching and Learning (formerly DIIA). She spent almost four years at Information Quest serving on the Infrastructure team as lead propagation analyst, helping to support ETL and BI processes.
In addition to winning the Office of the Controller Employee Excellence Award in 2012 for her R&D work on Mainframe to Oracle real-time data propagation methods, she also redesigned and coded IQ’s informational website. Before joining OSI, Cindy worked as a Senior Software Developer/Analyst for the International Office, where she overhauled their legacy insurance data feed and created a new streamlined billing system for the Student and Scholar Services team.
“I am passionate about creating clean and maintainable systems that deliver accurate, accessible, and useable data,” Cindy effuses. “I am very excited to be joining OSI, and I look forward to growing with the team.”
Born in Lafayette, Louisiana, to a mechanical engineer father and an apparel designer mother, Cindy spent most of her pre-college life in Sugar Land, Texas, where her parents did a fine job cultivating both sides of her brain (and that of her younger brother, Johnny, who is a Financial Analyst, as well as a Blues guitar player).
When not programming or pondering the beauty of data, Cindy can usually be found doing something creative. She enjoys cooking, playing the flute, and doing lapidary and glass work. She is an Accredited Jewelry Professional with the Gemological Institute of America and often gives out jewelry design advice and assessment on a pro bono basis. She is also an avid fan of ballet and still takes dance classes to this day.