Scouts Canada knows its scouts better with BI, single database

Scouts Canada has been recruiting Canadian kids and volunteers since 1908 and today it has more than 160,000 members.

In an effort to better understand its membership, and more quickly capture scouting recruitment trends, Scouts Canada decided to replace its client-server membership management system installed in the early 1990s. That system was slow, difficult to access and relied on 27 different databases around the country where people had to input information manually from paper-based forms.

“We had no central database or way to find out more about who (Scouts Canada’s) members were, where they lived and what role those members played in the organization,” said Tom Obright, director of information management for Scouts Canada in Ottawa. “Also, a large number of those (27) databases were starting to get out of date, some (were) still based on products that were no longer in use or even discontinued.”

Using this older system meant Scouts Canada could not get the results or breakdown of a recruitment drive done between September and November until the following August, almost a full year after the fact. This lag time had an impact far and wide. This included such things as ordering uniforms and stock materials, to more important decisions like the amount of liability insurance needed to cover new Scouts.

Obright and his teams worked with Deloitte Touche Management Solutions to examine the problem and devise various solutions. The decision was made to move to a Web-based system allowing regional offices to tap into a central database from which reports could be generated based on the kinds of analysis individual offices needed. These reports could be anything from the gender breakdown of the scouts based upon region, or whether one recruitment drive was more successful than another.

Scouts Canada decided to use Microsoft SQL Server 2000 as its central database. The regional Scouts Canada offices would send information to that database via Siebel’s MidMarket Edition 6.2.3 middleware and on top of the database was placed a reporting and analysis solution from Ottawa-based Databeacon Inc. Databeacon is a provider of Web reporting and data analysis software for mid-market organization.

Obright said Scouts Canada looked at other analytic tools, such as those from Sybold and Crystal Enterprise Edition, but found the tools did not provide the desired flexibility.

Scouts Canada wanted to provide its Scout leaders with a set of summary reports with commonly asked questions for information that could be modified with some 400 user-driven questions to make custom reports.

Obright added Databeacon’s Databeacon 5.2, an analytic tool offering customized, Web-based analytics that can be viewed through Databeacon Insight Viewer, was chosen because it let Scouts Canada look at its data in a flexible way, by first creating a compressed “cube” of information, a three-dimensional representation of the data, that can be parsed or examined in any number of ways to create reports in real-time. An advantage of these cubes is that users can set up their own report parameters.

“With Databeacon, you would just drag a category like gender out of a list of available categories (into the viewer) and you could right away change a report based on membership numbers to a report based on gender,” said Obright. “Such information as the differences between males and females in programs or groups was not easily available in the system. Before you had to write a special request and the IT team would have to get the data.”

One of the immediate advantages of the new system was how quickly Databeacon was able to export membership lists and information out to systems for creating newsletters and notices to be mailed out.

Previously, a Scout leader would have to filter through the old databases to find the membership information and then send it over to the Scouts Canada’s LabelMaker Pro program to create the mailing labels. This was a time consuming and expensive process.

Now, all that Scout leader has to do is use the Databeacon solution to quickly find the membership lists needed and automatically send the mailing information to LabelMaker Pro with no time delay. 041879

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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