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Top 3 Reasons to Outsource your IT Staffing Needs

Staffing-Magnifying GlassHaving Difficulty Finding Talented IT Professionals?

Between screening prospects, coordinating schedules, and checking references, when is there ever enough time to find what you’re looking for? Many hiring managers are opting to partner with a staffing company to outsource their recruiting needs.  According to the American Staffing Association, “During the course of a year, America’s staffing companies hire more than 14 million temporary and contract employees (American Staffing Association, 2015).” Clearly, utilizing a staffing company gives you access to many more potential resources, which can save you time and most importantly, cut expenses.

Top Benefits of Outsourcing Recruiting to a Staffing Company:

Reducing CostsStaffing-Costs

When outsourcing the recruiting process, time-intensive tasks like advertising on job boards performing background checks, and reviewing the resumes for that perfect candidate and, come as a part of the staffing service, therefore cutting costs for your company. Outsourcing your recruiting also removes the costs spent on recruiting tools like job board subscriptions and resource tracking systems.

Getting Back to the Business of ThingsStaffing-flowchart

Another benefit to outsourcing the process is the elimination of a prolonged hiring experience that some employers face within their companies.

The process of hiring has increased in length since 2010, with the average number of days to complete the hiring process now standing at 22.9 days, according to Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist from Glassdoor Economic.  What if there was a way to dramatically reduce the days spent on hiring?

Internally, your resources must balance everyday business operations with hiring tasks, significantly drawing out the process, and adding the risk of missing out on the best IT candidates.

Outsourced recruiters are focused only on hiring activities-finding, vetting, and scheduling the best candidates for review, while allowing your resources to focus on their day to day activities.

Effectiveness and QualityStaffing-chalkboard

The professionals working within the recruiting industry have greater wealth of resources and capabilities to find  quality IT candidates needed.  The wealth of resources includes: understanding the best IT job board and social media outlets to attract talented candidates, as well as knowledge of and access to effective IT networking events that reach many active and passive candidates on both a local and national level.  Career recruiters often have built personal networks of go to candidates that they can draw on, as well.

Employers require more than just experience and education; they are also interested in softer personality qualities to make it in this job market. Hiring the right person for the job reduces the risk of turn over.  Recruiters have the time and the ability to screen the candidates to find these softer skills that companies require, saving time and effort in the long run, and preventing turn over.

Clear BenefitsStaffing-Benefits

When it comes to IT staffing, the benefits of an outsourced model are high.  Let IT-focused recruiting professionals assist you in finding the expert talent in this ever changing, fast paced economy, while reducing costs for you.


About Aspect Consulting

Aspect Consulting is an IT consulting and staffing company with a 20+ year history.  Combining national recruiting capabilities and local market expertise, we are the go-to, single source frim for clients looking to attract, select and retain a quality workforce, providing a full range of staffing options:  Contract, Contract to Hire, Direct Hire, Project-Based Staff, and Outsourced Staff

When you outsource your recruiting needs, we use our Best Fit Process.
Our Best Fit Process is a proven approach for placing the BEST talent with the RIGHT job. While most staffing companies just want to fill positions, at Aspect Consulting, we want to deliver leading edge technical expertise to our clients.Staffing-best fit

  • Our formula TARGETS our clients’ expectations and only selects the most qualified, local talent as potential job candidates.
  • Potential candidates are SCREENED by our staff of consultants with the highest level of technical expertise, to ensure competence for the task at hand. Aspect conducts a thorough academic sweep and reference check. Our candidates are fully-vetted, and only submitted for a client interview after passing a series of specifications.
  • We MATCH only the most qualified talent. By finding, hiring, and developing our resources, we can quickly give our customers first-rate consultants to match their needs, saving them both time and money.

Consultant Spotlight: Jeremiah Yongue

JeremiahJeremiah Yongue , SQL DBA/Developer

Jeremiah joined Aspect Consulting as a consultant specializing in database administration and data integration for higher education third-party systems. He’s become a valued and flexible member of the Aspect team, serving as a SQL Server database administrator supporting multiple clients, and as an Oracle database developer implementing complex backend code for custom applications.

How long have you been with Aspect Consulting?
I joined Aspect in May 2014, so it is coming up on two years now.

What is your primary responsibility as Aspect?
Currently, I’m providing ongoing support as a SQL Server DBA, working on backup and recovery implementation, database consolidation efforts, and day-to-day troubleshooting of issues for multiple clients.  I’ve also worked on custom application projects as an Oracle database developer, and worked on third-party system data integration projects.

Tell us about your background…what did you do before you joined Aspect?
I have a Bachelors in Computer Science from Clemson University (Go Tigers!) and had spent 8 years (including my time as an undergraduate assistant at Clemson) in university IT groups, heavily involved in Banner implementation projects at both large and small universities.  My main focus areas were Degree Auditing solutions (especially with Ellucian’s DegreeWorks product) and Student Affairs (especially related to housing and integration of legacy web applications) within the new Banner environment.

Tell us about your most interesting project at Aspect…
My second engagement at Aspect was with a major, large pharmaceutical company. I’m responsible for maintenance and ongoing development of their complex electronic claims processing system.  This was my first exposure to the pharmaceutical industry and through this project I’ve been able to learn more about this industry and the intricacies of pharma contracting and claims processing than I ever imagined.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Since Aspect has multiple clients in various industries, I am always engaged. On any given day, I get the opportunity to tackle multiple challenges.  Some people might fear unpredictability, but I feel that I thrive on it.

What advice would you give to a recent college grad about to enter the IT industry?
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is that it is ok to say “I don’t know, but I can learn.” With how fast the IT industry changes, your degree isn’t the end of your education, it’s the beginning.

What could we find you doing when you’re not at work?
I try to play disc golf when I can.  I also enjoy anything related to craft beer. When I’m traveling, I always try to challenge myself to find a beer that I haven’t had before. When I need a break from technology, I go hunting and fishing with my family.

Dashboard Design Trends for 2016

Report Dashboards have come a long way since their early 70’s spreadsheet beginnings.  Many popular charting tools take a lot of the guess work out of standardizing common chart elements and choosing a pleasing color palette, but there is still much left up to the designer when it comes to presenting the data in a meaningful way, from choosing the best graphical representation for the data you are trying to illustrate, incorporating colorful goal or alert lines to make is easier for the user to see progress toward a goal, to making sure that you arrange the data in a readable, logical progression that will display legibly across devices.

As website design principles and aesthetics change, so do report dashboard design trends.  Here’s a list of top trends and ideas for incorporating them to add value to your dashboard design.

Go Flat
 flat design

It has taken UI design by storm, so naturally, flat design is starting to be incorporated into dashboard components.  Flat is in, but there is more reason to incorporate it into your designs than keeping up with trends.  Flat design is a style of user interface design that removes elements that give the illusion of three dimensions (such as excessive use of drop shadows, gradients or textures), and has arisen partly as a response to the heavily designed “Skeumorphic” graphics of the past (realistic folders, buttons, and dials designed to actually look like the analog object it is digitally replacing), but also as an answer to making controls easier and faster to render and size over a variety of mobile devices.  The flat design style is dominated by simple shapes, sharp edges, bright colors, and clean typography.  Major vendors are offering clean, flat charting controls, with little shadow.  But designers still have control over color and arrangement, and custom dashboard designers should keep the following in mind, since end users expect and are aided by similar experiences:

  • Utilize Flat Shapes: Keep icons, bars, boxes flat and utilize basic shapes with short (or no) shadowing.flat dashboard
  • Minimize Grid Lines: Keep grid line color subtle so that the actual figures stand out, not the grid lines.  Minimize the number of columns to keep data legible.
  • Incorporate Smart Color: Keep color muted across components, but use the bursts of a rich signature color to highlight important areas.  For example, important statistics are easy to read at a glance when placed in flat, mono-colored blocks.  Use the same color for components that relate to the same topic to give the reader a visual cue.
  • Use a Grid Layout with Negative Space: One of the biggest challenges in dashboard design is not overwhelming the end-user with too much data crammed onto a single page.  Utilizing a modular layout popularized by Windows 8 and now prevalent in web design works well to highlight metrics without overwhelming the user.  A grid layout doesn’t necessarily mean that every chart is the same size or takes up the same area in dashboard.  It is more about the uniform negative space that you place between items:  negative space serves as its own highlighting mechanism, making the non-negative space stand out.  So if you arrange your charts with a significant ratio of negative space gutter between elements, you will naturally create a serene viewing experience, and lead the user’s eye to the important metrics contained within each chart, without overloading the senses.

visual cueUtilize More Effective Visual Cues

There are many tips on choosing the right chart for the type of data you are trying to convey (to the pie chart abusers out there, you probably should read an article or two).  But even if you know the best use of a line chart v. bar v. pie v. scatter plot, there is a factor that is often overlooked in dashboard design.  The purpose of a dashboard is showing the most meaningful metrics first-those that cause you to act (or not act).  Often, the most telling statistics are those that show tracking to a goal or forecast.  If a chart’s true purpose is showing progress to a goal, make sure that you add easy to read markers, icons, or devices to clearly illustrate the difference (or lack of difference) between the actual number and the goal.  If you want to:

Show progress: Work with your end users to tease out historical values to set a reasonable goal associated with your data.  Add a clearly demarcated goal line to your chart. Use a strong color with a bold outline.
show progress

  • Compare progress: If you are comparing several of the same entities tracking toward a shared goal, consider showing the data as horizontal bars with a vertical goal line-the eye is better able to compare multiple data entities tracking to the same goal when stacked and oriented progress
  • Easily indicate values that fall outside of a target value: Make values that fall outside of target values stand out, by marking those points with a different icon to easily catch the user’s eye.

alarm alert

  • Compare goal and actual figures over time: Rather than showing two figures side by side, as a first look, consider displaying the variance between the actual and goal figures as a percentage, with points falling above or below a goal line (for example, colored bars falling above or below an axis line that represents  the goal).  Use a hover or drill in to list the actual figures behind the variance.
    Alternately, if a data or grid view is imperative to your users, use spark lines or mini charts as a column within that data view to show the trend of the variance indicated by the two figures over time.

responsive designIncorporate Responsive Design

The idea of a dashboard is to make data more accessible and portable.  A dashboard is not very useful if it cannot be accessed and legibly read on multiple devices.  Choose a tool that incorporates mobile or responsive design components.  If you are creating a custom dashboard, use responsive components that will automatically size and adapt to the device (i.e. components become sized and/or stacked appropriately so that the user can scroll effectively between elements in the direction most appropriate for the device).

When determining the placement of components, keep in mind how the majority of your audience will be accessing the data and how the data will be rendered so that you do not create too many side-by-side chart dependencies between components, or utilize a grid view with too many columns that will be lost on your mobile audience.

  • Makemobile phone use of Drill ins and Filters: Limit your ”first look” data that appears on your dashboard to the most meaningful metric associated with that group of data.  Then, utilize drill ins or filters to access the data beneath the first look.
  • Group Lists of Data Vertically: Sometimes a data view is the most appropriate way to convey information, and a graphical chart is not needed.  Consider stacking the most meaningful statistics or like figures vertically in cubes or boxes, with drill ins to additional data.  Traditional report grids with too many columns will be lost on your mobile audience.

Trends will come and go as user’s needs evolve and technology changes.   As a designer, choosing the trends that add the most value and usability for your users is your true goal.  For report dashboards, choose design elements that contain design features that make the user feel comfortable AND add elements that help better tell the “story” behind the numbers.

To Customize or Not To Customize: It’s a SharePoint Question Worth Asking

Customization Benefits and Pitfalls to Consider when Planning Your SharePoint Implementation

According to a 2013 market intelligence report published by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) (See more), adoption of SharePoint across their respondents was up to 57% in 2013, with only 18% of respondents using “the standard vanilla product with no customization.”  Despite improvements in the standard feature set, and a recent statement from Microsoft’s VP that customization is not necessarily advised and/or necessary with SharePoint 2013, a whopping 67% of respondents still see customization and add-on third-party products as important.

There are several valid reasons organizations should consider customizing their SharePoint sites. On the flip side, however, there are some significant pitfalls to consider before embarking on a customized SharePoint implementation.  In this article, we’ll outline the top benefits of customization, and describe some of the pitfalls that you will want to avoid to ensure a stable environment.

Reasons to Customize:  It’s all about Adoption

Above all else, you want your organization to adopt your SharePoint solution, and customization can increase that likelihood.  SharePoint solutions that incorporate a sleek, yet company-familiar design, and include design elements that make the site easy to use are often the keys to encouraging adoption.

  • Vanilla SharePoint Can Be Associated with Negative Connotations: Early adaptations of SharePoint tend to be associated with some negative user experiences, and the vanilla look of a SharePoint site can dredge up unwanted bad memories of some previous, earlier adoption.  Adding design elements that make the site look like useable, familiar applications, and adding elements that improve navigation within a site can help encourage a user’s comfort-level with a site.
  • Company Branding Breeds Familiarity: Adding key branding design elements to your company’s intranet site, like company logos, colors, and design elements that to match the look and feel of the organization’s other public outlets (like it’s public facing website) go a long way to making the solution feel official, and making the user feel invested.
  • Customizations that Improve User Experience Are Worth It: A good looking, useable site means a better user experience.  Adding design elements that aid navigation and improve workflow between departments serve to improve user experience.  Users will only adopt something that they find improves their day-to-day operations, and will never adopt something that feels like it’s adding to your workload.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Inexperienced Developers using the Wrong Toolsets: The AIIM survey revealed that “33% are struggling with their SharePoint implementation” with almost an equal number of respondents reporting that they sought no external advice or training.  The more comprehensive functionality available from SharePoint has to be built by an IT team using SharePoint’s .NET development tools. It makes more sense to view SharePoint as a developer-driven framework rather than an out of the box solution that anyone can implement.  It makes the most sense to utilize Microsoft development tools or vetted third-party products.  Go slowly turning on features, assessing third-party tools, and utilizing non-Microsoft development tools.
  • No Governance Plan: If you customize the look and feel, it becomes even more important to institute rules and governance for Team Sites.   Too much customization (adding many master pages, not using the SharePoint CSS to manage changes) can lead to upgrade issues in the future.  Allowing too many site designs can negatively impact adoption and become a support nightmare.  Make sure you have style and user governance rules in place before embarking on a branding exercise.  Utilize a single master page to manage branding for any given site or site collection, and Implement governance rules surround administration, style sheet updates and 3rd party tool implementation.  Do not modify default core SharePoint files. Once you modify these files, your changes will impact the entire environment. By modifying these files, you are at risk to lose all of your changes when updating.
  • No Training Plan:  Not only does the technical team need training to roll out a supportable, seamless site, your end-users will require training if you want to ensure adoption.  Good training practices increase buy in, making users feel part of the ongoing business process.

The Bottom Line:

  • Do the Costs Justify the Results:  Weigh the development effort against the operational savings that you will achieve from the customization. Carefully assess where customization makes sense.  Development cycles cost money, and if the development will cost more than the operational savings, you have your answer.
  • Don’t go Rogue.  Make sure you utilize best practices and resources that have the technical skills needed to implement and roll out a secure, supportable site.  The SharePoint platform is meant to be accessible, but an implementation that utilizes customized elements should not be undertaken by resources with little SharePoint development experience.
  • Have a Governance Plan:  Make sure that user experience is always your customization goal, and be prepared to plan and implement governance rules surround administration, style sheet updates, and 3rd party tool implementation so that your solution remains supportable and upgradeable.


About the Author:

Jody March is a IT project management consultant and a SharePoint Intranet subject matter expert,  with over 15 years of experience working as the liaison between IT and commercial operations and HR/communication departments to roll out successful IT initiatives.  Most recently, Jody led the successful rollout of a pharmaceutical organization’s SharePoint intranet site, working strategically with both internal stakeholders and external vendors to implement processes that led to a useable, adoptable solution.

Growing Your Community of SharePoint Intranet Content Contributors

An intranet is definitely a unique beast.  As an intranet owner or manager, you realize that the work is in rallying the troops to contribute content.  Without this content, readers have no reason to come to your site.  Not only do you need one time, feature-type contributors, but you need ongoing contributors who ensure content is fresh and relevant.

Below are some tips in building and keeping a working group of content providers.  Keep in mind this is only one way to get content.  There are others!  But for the purposes of this particular blog, we’ll focus on the community of people.

Tip #1:  Make it easy.  You may want to have a few templates available for users and examples of how they have been used.  This provides them with visuals that they can apply to their given situation.  Additionally, having a few web parts available as additional options – again with examples – is very helpful.  You may want to consider placing this information online as self-service help.

Tip #2: Be regularly available.  Consider creating a regular once-a-week meeting where your content contributors can come to you for help and consultation.  Maybe they are having issues with security or maybe they have a new campaign to launch about the upcoming Open Enrollment for Health benefits. Whatever it may be, this repeated meeting gives them a venue to engage with you, and gives you an allotted time to get new requests and deal with support issues.  During the week, when you get contacted for these types of things, you can direct them to wait and use this regular meeting.  It’s a win-win strategy.

Tip #3: Train them.  This can be done in multiple ways.

  • The first way is in-person, live WHEN you are helping them with an issue. This way you train them to be self-sufficient going forward.
  • The second way is with online training. Create videos and how to’s.  Post them in a help section.
  • The third way is to have monthly training. Ask the group for a topic and train on it.  Or better yet, have one of the content contributors train the others.

Tip #4:  Connect them.  Everyone likes to be part of a group.  An easy way to connect people is in the meetings noted above, but also in emails to the group and online.  In your online help section, list the names and photos from people’s My Site to showcase all of the content contributors.  This way, they can contact one another when they see something they like that another person has done.  They also can share successes and frustrations and, as they feel appropriate, share those with you.

Tip #5: Make it a real job responsibility.  One way to encourage this type of ongoing work is to suggest making it “real” by having them put it on their yearly Goals & Objectives.  You might even want to write up a generic content contributor objective that they can plop on their G&Os.  This will help them in their Commitment and will let them know their work will count and be noticed.

Tip #6:  Recognize them.  Who doesn’t like to be recognized for their efforts?  Maybe you want to recognize them for being open to learning and embracing SharePoint and the intranet.  Or maybe you want to recognize them for the successful launch of their department page.  There are a number of ways to recognize people.  It can be as simple as a thank-you email (with a cc: to the boss) to creating a certificate (use Word or PowerPoint or find a template online) that you formally present at the employee’s department staff meeting.

About the Author:

Jody March is a IT project management consultant and a SharePoint Intranet subject matter expert,  with over 15 years of experience working as the liaison between IT and commercial operations and HR/communication departments to roll out successful IT initiatives.  Most recently, Jody led the successful rollout of a pharmaceutical organization’s SharePoint intranet site, working strategically with both internal stakeholders and external vendors to implement processes that led to a useable, adoptable solution.

Do Looks Matter? SharePoint Design Tips to Boost Usability and Adoption

As the IT manager for an intranet for over 5 years, I’ve learned quite a bit – mostly from my mistakes.  One of the key discussion points along my intranet journey was around the look of SharePoint and the look of an intranet.  Let’s face it, there is not really much that is “sexy” about the look of SharePoint (no offense Microsoft).  I myself wasn’t all that excited about it, but regardless, I had to continue to carry the torch and evangelize its use as often as I could.  After managing three releases of the intranet, it was pretty clear what the answer was.

The Situation: Multiple Releases…Low Adoption

sharepoint do looks matter

Why was the adoption of the intranet so low?  Was the look important?  This was an ongoing conversation between myself and my CIO.  We talked about the Consumerism of IT – how people expected technology to be at least on par with their experience in their personal technology world.  They want easy, working, nice-looking web experiences.  But did this really matter inside the working world?

The Solution:  One More Try…with Branding

Round Four of the company intranet was aligned to a key business event, the launch of the new company brand.  This brand had guidelines and rules on its usage.  The intranet was to reflect this brand, along with our external websites, marketing collateral and so on.  We decided to hire a designer who not only would create a design for the intranet, reflective of our brand, but a design that would actually be able to be implemented on SharePoint 2010.  My team needed to nail this and I was tired of pushing something very few people seemed to care about.  No one saw a preview of the look of the intranet, so the launch was the first time everyone would see it.

The Result:  It’s a Hit!

I was at a National Sales Meeting in Las Vegas to support the launch of our intranet as part of the overall new brand launch.  We manned a booth where we were showcasing the intranet, its new look and new features.  The response was overwhelming.  People were very pleased with the look.  They actually asked questions about it and how it worked.  They wondered how they could participate.  When I went back to the home office, I found my team had the same experience and we had a new problem.  The problem was now that we had an overwhelming demand for people to get their content up on the intranet.  This was the best problem to have!  The only next problem was how would two people handle all of these requests?

I’m not saying that the look is the only thing that made our intranet a success.  In fact, there are many aspects to the intranet ecosystem that feed into its success.  In a marketing class I recently took, I learned that your physical image is what people remember most about you.  I think it is true for the intranet as well.  It can be inviting or it can feel “icky”.  So my advice is to put thought and effort toward the look of your intranet.  The design needs to be clean and having it match your company brand helps showcase the importance of it as a strategic tool for your company.  It will pay off and help the desire for your users to want to come to it and want to get their content up on it.  So in conclusion: Looks DO matter (for an intranet anyway).

About the Author:

Jody March is a IT project management consultant and a SharePoint Intranet subject matter expert,  with over 15 years of experience working as the liaison between IT and commercial operations and HR/communication departments to roll out successful IT initiatives.  Most recently, Jody led the successful rollout of a pharmaceutical organization’s SharePoint intranet site, working strategically with both internal stakeholders and external vendors to implement processes that led to a useable, adoptable solution.



Consultant Spotlight: Krisit Serago, Senior Recruiter

Kristi Serago
Senior Recruiter, Aspect Consulting

Kristi Serago is a Senior Recruiter with over 14 years of extensive experience recruiting quality talent in industries such as Information Technology and Financial Services.  Kristi takes pride in developing each candidate relationship on an individual basis. 

The recruiting competition in the IT industry creates enormous challenges, tell us how you conquer those challenges and convert them into success stories.

You have to be persistent, but personable so your candidates and clients want to work with you and only you.  Success comes from determination to find the right fit for both the client and the candidate.

What sets you apart, and makes you a “unique” recruiter?

I consistently gain and keep the trust of my candidates.  I also have a deep understanding of all the technical requirements, which enables me to match the perfect candidate with the perfect position.  Our “Best Fit Approach” helps me deliver leading edge technical expertise to our clients.

What are your tips for screening candidates?

Treat your candidates with respect, relate to them on a personal level, and ask lots of questions.  Asking questions helps you understand the technologies, and also give you a better grasp of the depth of each candidate’s knowledge in a particular area.

What tips would you give a prospective recruit?

Keep up with the ever growing, and changing industry.  Keep your skills current in order to be set apart from the competition.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The feeling of helping others with their careers, and seeing them grow and succeed.

What would we find you doing outside of work?

I’m very passionate about my friends and family, and like to spend as much time with them as possible.  I like to cook so you would find me in the kitchen a lot as well!

Higher Learning Institutions Increasingly Turning to Short Term High Tech Staffing to Meet Evolving IT Needs

Universities and higher education institutions around the country are constantly faced with new and challenging issues in the ever changing world of technology and data management. Developing an organizational model to accommodate the changing IT environment, and facilitate openness is necessary to meet the demands of increasingly complex federal, state and local oversight of these institutions, along with continually evolving IT needs, and the staff that supports them.

Retiring Old and Complex Data Processes

As new technologies emerge, which will undoubtedly result in cost-savings and improved overall efficiency, IT departments in large universities are challenged with consolidating and upgrading their infrastructure, while minimizing the operational impact the changes will have on the institution and their current platform.

Government and State Legislation Creates Need for Efficient Source of Data

Aside from emerging technologies, changes in state legislation and civil law throughout the nation have increased the burden on state universities to produce records in timely manner. There is a need for a cost-efficient common source of shared data, and existing systems may lack a coordinated approach, resulting in inconsistent compliance and widely varying records retention practices.

Government agencies monitor activities, and penalties for violating laws and regulations are often severe.  Universities must emphasize compliance with these laws and regulations. Compliance relies on comprehensive student information systems that manage the student lifecycle from recruiting and admissions, through student services and alumni relations.

Powerful Student Information Systems and their HUGE Impact on Higher Education Institutions

One trending, common infrastructure change is a shift to large versatile and powerful university ERP suites like PeopleSoft and Ellucian’s Banner to manage the complex student lifecycle. These applications are the answer to reducing storage costs and legal liability. Some of their attractive features are as follows:

Shared Common Database – Captures all prospect, applicant, student, alumni, and organizational data, then secures it, tracks it, and delivers what you need upon request.
Academic Advisement – Gives students and faculty timely access to academic records and reports.
Streamlined Processes – Student administration and registration, account management and financial aid, academic services, and regulatory reporting, reducing error, costs, and employee frustration.
Efficient Handling and Reporting of Finances – Resulting in better forecasting and budgeting.

Migration of a current platform to a new application requires a strategy that provides a roadmap for requirement’s gathering, design, installations, configurations, testing and training. These solutions do not need to come at a cost. With an expert staff supporting the institution throughout the transition, these efficient systems will provide the organization with the most cost-efficient, consolidated use of their data.

Universities Turning to Staffing to Support New Technology

As large ERP/LMS systems are implemented to meet information and compliance needs, they often require a level of support that university IT organizations often do not have on hand.

An article published by Educause, highlights IT Staffing Model changes as the Number 4 IT issue facing higher learning organizations. Author Susan Grajek highlights that universities are increasingly turning to IT staffing to support stressed IT organizations. Susan states that “IT organizations are learning to take advantage of any opportunity to shift and retrain resources as the landscape changes, including leveraging temporary contract workers for specific initiatives.”

The University IT team must set strategy, and engage the needed talent in order to be agile, and respond quickly to changing IT needs to keep costs down. High-tech and skilled staff augmentation are needed to implement the systems, and also for reporting, security, and networking that campuses need to stay current and meet the increasing technological needs of students, as well as stay compliant with state and federal legislation.

Turning to IT staff augmentation is often the best option for most institutions to ensure their new initiatives are carried out by an expert staff with the least amount of impact on their current operations.

Time is Right to Utilize PBBAs (Purpose Built Backup Appliances) for Cost-Efficient and Optimized Backup Data Storage

The use of Purpose Built Backup Appliances (PBBAs) for backup data storage has shown dramatic growth in 2013 and is forecasted to see a revenue growth of 19% per year through 2016.

Offering optimized data storage, reduced expenditures over traditional hardware, with no need to change existing platform or processes, the time is right to consider incorporating PBBA solutions into your environment.

What is a PBBA?

PBBAs are stand-alone, optimized disk-based devices constructed specifically for efficient storage and recovery of large amounts of data. The devices incorporate data de-duplication and compression processing, offering optimized-retention abilities. PBBAs fall into two categories:

• Devices that provide optimized data storage that can be used in conjunction with third-party software to back up, restore, and move data to and from the appliance. (Dell, EMC, Exagrid, HP, NetApp, Quantum, and Sepaton).

• Devices that provide optimized data storage AND also include backup software to perform the backup, restore, and movement of data to and from the appliance (EMC Avamar, Axcient or Symantec 3600/5230).

Why the High Demand?

Simply put, the ability to more cost-efficiently store and restore data has driven the rapid customer adoption of PBBA systems.

Virtual networks, regulated data preservation, new applications and document sharing are some of the reasons that data size is expanding by leaps and bounds. As a result, backup and recovery management has also become complex and expensive for many businesses.

PBBA systems work across protocol and platform, and allow customers to utilize existing application software that has already been deployed for the movement of data to and from the host system. Customers can rapidly deploy and schedule the movement of data to the system. PBBAs come pre-tuned and optimized and have the ability to seamlessly integrate with existing backup applications.

Storage optimization abilities allow you to store and restore large amounts of data more efficiently than on traditional disk-based hardware. PBBAs provide data de-duplication that offers storage administrators the ability to analyze and only store one instance of repetitive data, which in turn reduces backup time, increases storage capability, and speeds up the process resulting in a significant cost savings.

PBBAs also are also associated with less licensing costs than traditional disk-based hardware, allowing you to save licensing costs associated with server hardware.

Facts and Figures: The Return on Investment

According to a statement released by EMC, a leading PBBA solution provider, their customers have achieved an 81% reduction in time spent managing backups, resulting in average payback periods of seven months, and a return on investment of 450% over three years. With time and cost savings that significant, it’s not difficult to comprehend the rapid growth of these appliances.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PBBA Tracker, factory revenues have posted a 9.7% year-over-year increase, totaling $962.4 million in the 4th Quarter of 2013 alone. EMC is the vendor driving the growth with a 67.4% revenue share, along with Symantec, IBM, HP and Quantum.

About the Author:

John Abrams is senior Data Architect/DBA with 20+ years’ experience working with clients and their data. John’s primary focus is on database administration, performance tuning, data warehousing and data load processing design and architecture, as well as application design and architecture. Recently, John has been working with clients to plan and implement PBBA implementation initiatives, helping clients realize significant savings.

Tips and Tricks: Two Methods to Pivot Data Cross-Tab Query and SQL PIVOT Command

It’s a common request:  for display purposes, sometimes it’s necessary to query and display data from left to right instead of top to bottom.  You may want to convert repeating columns of a table into a more normalized form by rotating, or pivoting, data between columns and rows, and aggregate data in any remaining columns.

The Problem:  We needed to quickly and easily show sales data across each month.  Data stored includes Sales Date, Customer Name, and Sales Amount.

The Solution:  Here are two different approaches to pivoting or cross-tabulating data:  the Cross Tab Query, and the newer SQL PIVOT Command.  Both efficiently return data in a pivoted format.

The following code example produces a three column table with nine records:

create table test_data

(sale_date date,
customer  varchar2(50),
sale_amount number(22,2));

delete from test_data;

insert into test_data values (‘1-jan-13′,’Customer 1’,10);
insert into test_data values (‘1-jan-13′,’Customer 2’,100);
insert into test_data values (‘1-jan-13′,’Customer 3’,300);

insert into test_data values (‘1-feb-13′,’Customer 1’,20);
insert into test_data values (‘1-feb-13′,’Customer 2’,110);
insert into test_data values (‘1-feb-13′,’Customer 3’,400);

insert into test_data values (‘1-mar-13′,’Customer 1’,30);
insert into test_data values (‘1-mar-13′,’Customer 2’,120);
insert into test_data values (‘1-mar-13′,’Customer 3’,500);



1-Jan-13 Customer 1 10
1-Jan-13 Customer 2 100
1-Jan-13 Customer 3 300
1-Feb-13 Customer 1 20
1-Feb-13 Customer 2 110
1-Feb-13 Customer 3 400
1-Mar-13 Customer 1 30
1-Mar-13 Customer 2 120
1-Mar-13 Customer 3 500

Method One: Cross-Tab Query
Use the following syntax to return data in a cross-tabulation by month:
select customer,
case to_char(sale_date,’Mon’)
when ‘Jan’ Then sale_amount
else 0
end) Jan_Sales,
case to_char(sale_date,’Mon’)
when ‘Feb’ Then sale_amount
else 0
end) Feb_Sales,
case to_char(sale_date,’Mon’)
when ‘Mar’ Then sale_amount
else 0
end) Mar_Sales
from test_data
group by customer


Customer 1 10 20 30
Customer 2 100 110 120
Customer 3 300 400 500

Alternate Method: SQL PIVOT Command
The following syntax provides the same result as the Cross-Tab Query syntax above, pivoting data on month, and can be utilized in SQL 2005 and above.
FROM   (SELECT to_char(sale_date,’Mon’) Sale_Month,
FROM   test_data)
PIVOT  (SUM(sale_amount) AS sum_amount
FOR (Sale_Month) IN (‘Jan’ AS Jan_Sales,
‘Feb’ AS Feb_Sales,
‘Mar’ AS Mar_Sales));

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