In this case study

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) engaged WWT to architect and deploy a foundational Microsoft Azure-based data lake and warehouse for enterprise reporting and analytics. GVSU's core objectives were to eliminate data silos, create data visualizations and perform analysis from a single source of truth, and start to enable the democratization of data across the university.

Emil Delgado, associate vice president for IT at GVSU, described the current data state: "There are many siloed sets of data that we access on a case-by-case basis which can be merged to make the data easier to use. We frequently rely on static spreadsheets and forms for data, which results in data being out of sync with the source systems."

Regarding how data democratization could help employees, Delgado said GVSU relies "on one or two teams to handle our data requests, causing bottlenecks and undue pressure. Moreover, some individuals fail to utilize existing data as they are unaware of the reports that are available and how to access them."

WWT deployed a Microsoft Fabric-based data lake and data warehouse using infrastructure-as-code. WWT worked closely with our partners Microsoft and Intel to select and optimize the right solution architecture for GVSU's requirements.

While GVSU was initially focused on student-related data, selecting Fabric will allow GVSU to easily scale the data platform in the future to accommodate use cases from other domains like finance and human resources.

WWT interviewed stakeholders from a variety of departments across the university, from Academic Affairs to Housing and Residence Life, to understand and prioritize the top reports for student data. Ultimately the team identified over 30 use cases across four prevalent categories.

30 uses cases across four categories were identified.
30 use cases across four categories were identified.


Developing foundational infrastructure

WWT utilized a business use case-driven approach to continuously deliver tangible business value by integrating data into Azure according to business value.  Business value was quantified through a series of workshops facilitated by WWT. Data was integrated into the Azure data lake from a mix of on-premise and cloud-based student data sources, including GVSU's Learning Management System, the university's student demographics database, and multiple Customer Relationship Management applications that capture comprehensive data from recruitment to admissions to retention. Data pipelines were engineered to automatically capture changes in source system data and streamline integrations. Data pipelines were further built from the data lake to the data warehouse, creating a curated data layer for reporting via PowerBI. This was the first time GVSU end users could access and build reports from a centralized data source. At the end of the project, WWT built the top reporting use case in PowerBI and migrated the backend of existing PowerBI reports to Azure.

WWT helped to carefully control data access and mask certain fields inside the reports, ensuring only the appropriate parties could view data on specific students. GVSU collaborated with WWT to define and apply pilot active directory groups for these reports utilizing higher education criteria. 

Lastly, WWT deployed the Azure data governance solution Purview. WWT integrated Purview into the Azure data platform as a resource for users to enhance their data understanding and explore the data available for analysis or reporting. Purview scans all Azure data lake assets and provides a comprehensive overview through the data catalog. GVSU users can search assets for data discovery or seek additional context on a specific report term. WWT started developing a business glossary and table lineage diagrams to demonstrate the full capability of this data governance tool. Microsoft Purview will be a central tool for GVSU as the organization grows its data governance program.

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