Innovation and changeCloud ComputingKing’s College keeps up with the demand for information

King’s College keeps up with the demand for information

King’s College London is using Azure to help staff easily gather and analyse data from across the university, meeting the demand for information

In a bid to match with demand for information, King’s College London will move information about students, courses, teaching spaces, research and finances from each department into a single data lake hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

The university’s strategy, planning and analytics team were struggling to keep up with demand for information. Trying to get the evidence that stakeholders needed meant spending huge amounts of time attempting to access and collate data from multiple systems scattered across departments. Senior stakeholders were also unable to get the real-time insights they needed to track their progress against key performance indicators.

Having this data in one place will allow the university’s 7,000+ staff to quickly see how they can make the best use of teaching spaces in multiple locations across one of the world’s most expensive cities, understand research funding, track offers to potential students, and help them enrol and settle in during their first weeks on campus, among other things.

Avoiding redundant tasks

Matt Gordon, Associate Director of Data and Analytics at King’s, said: “By using Azure, data from Student Records, Admissions, Finance, Research Management, Timetabling and Estate Management has been successfully collated and integrated, which previously was not possible. Traditionally, working with these data sets required our analysts to be familiar with multiple programming languages and to spend large amounts of time gaining access. Previously, more than 80% of their time was spent on routine extractions and integration of the same data and from the same the systems.

“Now, they can refocus their time on finding new insights, building new reports and engaging with users across the university to explain their work and conclusions. We have also used this as the basis for a suite of Power BI reports that allow users to access and explore data for themselves, relieving our analysts of the need to email staff requesting information from them.”

Microsoft partner Adatis is helping the university with its transformation and keeping up with the demand for information. Adatis is also involved in teaching digital skills to university staff.

Martin Philpott, Commercial Director at Adatis, said: “Adatis is very proud to be partnering with such a progressive establishment in the higher education sector. King’s is one of the world’s most respected educational and researched focused universities. This data amalgamation project will only help to solidify their advanced understanding of the rapidly moving data space, setting them up as a leading university well into the future.”

Multiple systems in separate departments

Before the university’s rolled out Azure, the database management system SQL Server and data visualisation tool Power BI, staff were faced with a lack of data and little automation. Questions such as “Which teaching spaces should King’s use for which courses in the next academic year?” were almost impossible to answer because that information was held in multiple systems in separate departments.

“The decisions being taken were not necessarily the ones people would have made if they’d had the data available,” Gordon added.

Apart from keeping up with demand for information, another key objective was to reduce the amount of time analysts at King’s spent getting hold of data, so the could spend more time analysing it and producing meaningful reports and insights that could support strategic decision-making.

“We can now start to answer questions such as ‘if we increase numbers on a specific course, can we accommodate those numbers with the space we have?’,” Gordon said.

Microsoft has doubled size of UK Azure regions, increasing compute capacity by more than 1,500%, as country embraces digital transformation.

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