Eastern Oregon University was founded in 1929 as a teacher’s college and continues that tradition by preparing today’s education professionals to facilitate learning in 21st-century schools. The university also offers a broad variety of degrees in business and the liberal arts as well as cooperative programs in agricultural science and nursing. Located in La Grande, Ore., EOU also serves as a cultural center, connecting rural northeastern Oregon to a wider world.
With almost 4,000 students and more than 100 full-time faculty members, EOU leverages technology as much as possible to support its administrative processes. The university uses Banner as its student information system and Salesforce for tracking applications and other data. Several years ago, EOU implemented Axiom to transfer data from Salesforce into Banner.
When Axiom Elite was introduced in 2015, EOU became a beta test site for the software. Analyst/Programmer Lyle Henderson says that the new features in Axiom Elite inspired the school to look for new ways to use it.
“We instantly realized that this sophisticated tool could solve some other problems we were having,” Henderson said. “A particular pain point was our HR data. Because it is very expensive to integrate the HR hiring system with Banner, employees were filling out paperwork that was then manually entered into the database.
“We decided to evaluate Axiom Elite as a way to automatically upload employee information into Banner. It worked beautifully.”
Manually entering data from paper forms wasn’t just time-consuming — it caused a number of problems. Papers would get lost or be filled out incorrectly, resulting in approval delays. Errors and duplicate records would be introduced when the data was entered into Banner. The school needed a way to enter the data into an electronic form, then match, validate and transform the data for upload into Banner.
That’s what Axiom is designed to do. Technically, it’s an “extract, transform and load” tool that takes information from one source, massages it based upon business logic, and inserts it into another database. If it determines that a record already exists, it updates the data. Axiom integrates Banner, Colleague and other student information systems with a wide range of applications and data sources to streamline these processes.
Axiom Elite provides more sophisticated data management capabilities than the legacy product, and a more intuitive user interface. EOU decided to leverage Axiom Elite to integrate a web-based form with Banner.
Now, instead of filling out paper forms, employees enter data directly into the web forms. Because the data has to be approved before its input into Banner, it’s initially stored in a staging table. Another set of web forms allows staff from the HR and payroll departments to review the data, make corrections, add job data and approve the records.
Axiom Elite is set up to look for specific status changes, so once the record has been approved by HR and payroll, the status triggers Axiom Elite to load the record. Axiom uses APIs to match the data to an existing Banner record or create a new record, then validate, transform and insert the data.
“You just have to figure out how you’re going to get the data and can put it into a location that Axiom Elite can read. Part of the standard Axiom Elite package is the duplicate matching for the contact and the translation of data into Banner values,” said Henderson.
“You can also add your own extended logic if you want. That’s one of the best features of it — if it doesn’t quite match our business logic out of the box, we can modify it. If you know SQL you can write a query to tell Axiom Elite to pull the data from certain fields based on certain conditions, perform the business logic then load the data.”
It sounds complicated, but Henderson says you don’t have to be a programmer to use the Axiom Elite product. In fact, one of the best features of Axiom Elite is its “drag-and-drop” interface for mapping data sources to student information systems.
“The interface for Axiom Elite is pretty intuitive,” Henderson said. “If you have a pretty standard case and aren’t doing anything too fancy, you don’t need to know much about programming.”
The Axiom solution includes implementation and customization services to ensure that the system precisely fits each school’s business requirements. The Axiom team worked with EOU to configure both the original Axiom system and Axiom Elite to handle student data.
“We’re still working on the setup of Axiom Elite on the student side,” said Henderson. “There are five data sources that all tie together, and hundreds of fields that have to be translated, transformed and debugged. It’s really complex. The HR application is a lot simpler — we used a simplified version of the student system to build it.”
The HR data entry system was completed ahead of schedule and is currently going through final testing and user adoption. As HR and payroll staff work through the system, they’re seeing the potential for additional functionality.
“We’ve had a little bit of ‘feature creep,’” Henderson said. “People are asking, ‘Can we include this, too? What about this?’ The users really seem to like the system. It’s cutting out a whole bunch of manual work.”