Industry: Education and Academic Research

Company Overview:

The University of California, Irvine, or “UCI” for short, is one of the leading public universities in the nation. Established in 1965, UCI is one of ten campuses in the University of California system. More than 30,000 students are currently earning their bachelor’s, master’s, PhD (doctorate of philosophy), MD (medical doctorate), and JD (juris doctorate) degrees from UCI. Over 1,100 faculty members teach thousands of courses in a variety of disciplines, including aerospace engineering, Japanese literature, criminology, urban studies, neurobiology, and more.

Students travel from around the globe to further their education and expand their horizons at UCI. This university regularly ranks among the top schools in the country and the world. Last year, Times Higher Education named UCI the number one American university younger than 50 years old. In addition to academic excellence, students are drawn to UCI’s picturesque, suburban southern California campus, located just an hour from the major metropolitan centers of Los Angeles and San Diego alike.

Since UCI is a top-level research university, its professors also investigate academic questions, pursue scientific inquiry, and develop advanced solutions within their disciplines. Governmental and private foundations fund these activities, which totaled nearly $350 million in 2013 alone. 9,400 staff members and administrators support the daily functions of the university and its efforts. As an organization, UCI generates over $4 billion in economic impact each year. The influence of this institution extends well beyond its 1,000-acre Irvine campus.

The Challenge:

With its myriad activities, abundance of students, thousands of employees, and billions in revenue, effectively managing data is key for UCI. An employee from the university’s IT department recently contacted Excel Consultant to ask if our experienced consultants could help connect external databases and tables using Microsoft Access (the relational database management system that typically comes with the Office suite). UCI’s team had been using this Microsoft program to link various databases, but the system was very unstable and did not allow users to run more complex queries.

Basically, UCI’s staff could not perform necessary analyses across databases to check accounts, direct projects, compare statistics, and more. Primarily, they needed to author reports in order to communicate the status of university activities to various administrators, faculty, executives, and funders. The IT professional who initially reached out to Excel Consultant hypothesized that the problem with their system might be the “large amount of data.” UCI’s previous structure simply wasn’t set up to handle the vast amount of information contained in its databases and tables.

To make matters worse, UCI’s team needed to retrieve information from numerous sources for Access analysis. The intricacy and volume of the functions required were too much for the existing arrangement.

Key Client Benefits:

We took a multipronged approach to solve UCI’s database disaster. Fortunately, one of our primary office locations is in Irvine, just minutes from the campus. To begin straightening out the system, our instructors went onsite to the university’s offices, where we showed the users responsible for creating reports how to connect Access to different databases. We enjoy performing this type of on-premises training. It is rewarding to share our expertise directly with clients and see them become more confident with Microsoft programs before our very eyes. Our on-site education was efficient and effective.

Our programmers and software experts also cleaned up the current configuration by deleting old links to former versions of Access that were no longer needed. Removing this burdensome clutter helped the system run more quickly and smoothly. In addition, our team eliminated the unnecessary prompts that popped up when users opened Access, saving them valuable time.

We coded the new setup so that data could easily flow into Access from multiple databases. This involved revamping UCI’s SQL Server, the Microsoft relational database management system that stores and accesses information either on a single computer or (as was the case here) across a network.

Now, UCI’s employees can immediately obtain the information they need, no matter where it comes from. At this point, they can analyze the data in minutes and compile reports based on the results. By upgrading UCI’s outdated databases and streamlining their Access applications, our team optimized their operations. We were delighted to help this high-caliber institution function better.    

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