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How Michigan State University is Leveraging IBM Analytics and Ironside Group to Improve University advancement

This article is based upon an interview with Monique Dozier,  Assistant Vice President of Advancement at MSU.

In 1989, Howard Dresner, a leading analyst for Gartner, coined the term “business intelligence.” In 1994, this thought leader, strategy advisor, and former Gartner Research Fellow, made the following powerful prediction:

“By 1996, use of business intelligence solutions will shift dramatically away from dedicated analysts to all managers and professionals as the preferred way of understanding the business… Instead of a small number of analysts spending 100 percent of their time analyzing data, all managers and professionals will spend 10 percent of their time using BI software.”

The world’s top performing institutions aligned with Dresner’s thought projection, they recognized it is faster, far less expensive, and more accurate to leverage business intelligence solutions to identify and visually present answers to operational and customer-centric inquiries than to rely on dedicated analysts. This strategic insight and agile methodology in the deployment of multi-dimensional business intelligence is second nature to Monique Dozier, Assistant VP at Michigan StateUniversity, and the visionary and strategic leader for University Advancement.


Dozier understands the heart of executing an effective advancement strategy is building trusted and sustainable relationships with alumni and friends of the the university. Her technological tool of choice to achieve this objective is IBM Cognos 10.1 (Business Intelligence Reporting) which will soon be integrated with the power of SPSS Statistics Professional and SPSS Modeler Premium (Predictive Analytics), with its entity identification and especially text mining capability for social media.

Dozier said the support of her vice president, Robert Groves, Dozier is critical to the project. “It would feel like I was driving a car without wheels —going nowhere,” she said. “This to me would mean my team was not vital to the advancement mission.” Dozier’s support enabled her to engage the long-term strategic expertise of senior technical BI consultants from The Ironside Group.

At the enterprise level, MSU embraced IBM Cognos and has an enterprise data warehouse. Dozier, a technologist with a line of business background, recognize the importance of building a departmental enterprise data warehouse with a consistent architectural construct for extracting, loading and transferring data. This reduced the dependency on mainframe batch processing. The goals are to create one reporting environment; manage dynamically enriched data that can help alumni and gift officers advance support for MSU; improve organizational performance through new BI tool introductions and associated training, supported by data integrity, data governance, maintenance, and real-time intelligence through analytics. The overall objective is to transform data into insight to increase the performance of University Advancement by allowing a team of 200 professionals and support staff to strategically engage nearly one million alumni and friends of the university in the most strategic way possible.

IBM Cognos integrated with IBM SPSS will allow Dozier to operationalize her strategic marketing and analytical goal of organizing alumni and friends (customers) from the “most valuable” (ready and capable of making significant gifts) to the “least valuable.” It will also identify key patterns via trend analysis, and inter-connected relationships that can be translated into purposeful visual representation of the data. This approach will reduce the engagement of the IT to be free to focus on more strategic initiatives, and empower the development officers – the non-technical consumer of data by guiding their activities, and accelerating their performance.

The agile use of IBM Cognos and SPSS to leverage reporting, data mining and analytics informs her strategic business objectives. Dozier is the multi-dimensional executive Dresner projected 17 years ago. However, she has more technological and consultative power at her disposal than he imagined. Monique Dozier’s leadership style requires accountability, empowering her team to take action, the keen ability to streamline interactions with vendors, garner executive enterprise support, lead her multiple teams by example, set high yet obtainable goals, and consistently deliver high value results. These are the signposts for MSU Advancement’s continued success.