The promotion of young scientists is of paramount importance to Jedox. To this end, Jedox has been supporting institutions of higher education with free-of-charge premium licenses for many years. The Jedox academic program enables all state-registered institutions of higher education to apply for Jedox licenses and use them in their seminars and projects. Since the introduction of the program in 2006, Jedox has supported more than 50 institutions of higher education around the globe.
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Ginnold, professor for business information technology at the University of Applied Sciences for Engineering and Economics (HTW) in Berlin (professor emeritus since October 2014), interviewed by Diana Kuch, Communications Specialist at Jedox AG, on Jedox BI technology in teaching and the benefits for companies.
Jedox: Professor Ginnold, why does HTW Berlin dedicate courses for Masters students of business information technology to Business Intelligence?
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Ginnold: When we designed the Masters program, we decided to join forces to further improve the link between economics and computer science. We strive to combine business administration contents and processes in a way that enables solutions through applied computer science. Business information scientists are intermediaries between these worlds, which need to be merged to make an attractive offer to controllers and managers. Hence, the plan for HTW Berlin was to coordinate the Masters curriculum to offer our students multiple interrelated courses on Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing.
What drew your attention to Jedox back then?
Professor Ginnold: The answer to that question needs some background information. I have always tried to keep an eye on the IT market and discover new software providers to equip my students with state-of-the-art tools. For teaching, these tools had to have a lean design and be easy to use. During the Jedox roadshow 2008 in Berlin, we saw the opportunities the Jedox platform has to offer. And when we said we were interested, Jedox came up with the proposal for free teaching licenses – an offer that we have accepted gratefully for over 6 years now.
What made you opt for Jedox to teach your BI courses?
Professor Ginnold: The Jedox BI platform is perfectly suited to facilitate the first steps in Business Intelligence and to include this knowledge in strategic thoughts and feasibility studies, e.g. “How do I design a self-service solution?” “How can I integrate BI with existing IT environments, e.g. with SAP BW?” Jedox offers a straight-forward front-end for these questions that can be easily docked with further systems.
Have there been any hurdles to overcome for you and your students?
Professor Ginnold: Not at all. Right from the start, Jedox proved to be an intuitive and user-friendly software suite enabling fast and easy design of functional applications. Most of the other applications had been installed on our servers which was far from easy due to the complex infrastructure of our institution. For Jedox applications, our approach was different: The students install the Jedox software themselves and have never experienced any problems doing so.
What are the keypoints in BI courses at HTW Berlin? What does the curriculum look like?
Professor Ginnold: Since 2007, the Masters program for business information technology offers three profiles; one of them is the data-warehouse specialist profile. Data modeling and databases focusing on data warehouse, statistics and data mining, neuronal networks and many others. This profile is part of my role. It deals with the business administration perspective of analytical applications: Students are getting to know well-established Business Intelligence systems and use them for case studies and projects. This provides them with a sound theoretical framework and makes them fit for their future jobs. This is why HTW Berlin uses various applications and designs real dashboards and cockpits. Students deal with the trends of the industry in practice, such as self-service and mobility.
What else can you tell us about the learning-by-doing principle at HTW Berlin?
Professor Ginnold: We cooperate with selected companies from the region and from all over Germany to combine complex application cases with theoretical and methodological BI aspects. Our BI projects result from close collaboration with medium-sized companies, health institutions and consulting firms, among them global players like BearingPointConsulting
What are the problems that companies want you and your students to solve?
Professor Ginnold: Companies willing to collaborate with HTW Berlin are often unsatisfied with their ERP system, wish to improve their reporting and are looking for fast solutions to their problems. This is a wonderful starting point for our students. They can develop solution strategies for real problems, scientifically sound and with a tangible palpable practical impact, conceive show cases, or design small prototypes. This is certainly a win-win situation: The students learn how to build a BI system and how to connect applications with each other to realize a successful business case. And the business colleagues are grateful that the students, as solid technical partners, provide feasibility options and expenditure estimates, a job that is often disregarded by their companies due to time pressure.
Can you name a project that stands out?
Professor Ginnold: I have been teaching this BI course for 7 years now. In the two Masters courses, students develop 15 to 20 projects each semester. For the last couple of years, this means that very many good results are due to approximately 300 participants. This makes it difficult to emphasize one specific project. However, one of the interesting projects was a procurement solution for a large car producer. The students were confronted with the question: “How can I use the BI application for the business users to quickly draw the right conclusions from the prepared information?” An important name for reporting surely is Professor Hichert from Switzerland with his SUCCESS charts that are perfectly integrated with the Jedox suite. Furthermore, we have designed information pools for the large health institution Charité in Berlin and provided an extensive test environment for the consulting firm BearingPointConsulting to work with SAP Business Objects.
In this context, I would also like to mention the approximately 800 theses I have tutored during these years, many of which dealt with an analytical application, e.g. data warehouse or the development of cockpits. Only this August, one such paper on “Evaluation of Business-Intelligence Front-Ends for Self-Services in Large-Scale Enterprises” was submitted – an exciting work!
What has your students’ feedback been on the course and on working with Jedox?
Professor Ginnold: I have only received positive feedback from my students so far: On the one hand, they found the software easy to use thanks to its similarity to Excel, which means, there is a very low inhibition level, if any at all. On the other hand, the learning curve is very steep which further motivates the students. But above all, it is the manifold functions that have been cast into an integrated user-friendly platform and make the software “enchantingly” easy. Working with Jedox is fun for the students; they get along just fine.
Professor Ginnold, you are a pioneer of data analysis. You studied business data processing in Berlin at the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s and have seen many trends come and go. BI has long been a marginal topic at institutions of higher education. Have you realized this development during your time as professor? Is BI becoming more and more important in a world of excessive information?
Professor Ginnold: I’m guessing that you’re alluding to the big-data hype. When I started to deal with big data, I soon realized that big data did not mean the processing of huge data volumes but the processing of a huge data variety. Companies must respond to that topic, not necessarily regarding its technological challenge. First of all, big data must serve a business purpose and must not be used blindly: Do I have to evaluate all of the data I have collected and prepared somewhere anytime? That would be the wrong approach.
What do you see as the suitable strategy for this flood of data?
Professor Ginnold: I try to increase my student’s awareness of the necessity to specify the information needed for the business case in advance. The question will have to be: How can I restrict the mass of information and combine it usefully for a targeted analysis? It is like in real life: Before you prepare a meal, you think about the ingredients that make a tasty dish. You would not throw anything from your fridge into the cooking pot, just because it is available.
Another question would focus on how to ensure data quality in such a complex structure. If I analyze and combine millions of data records with modern big-data tools, but many of these records fail to meet the quality requirements, the best technical analyzing means are useless, since the result remains inaccurate.
You are the author of several BI publications and also wrote an article in the brochure presented on the occasion of the IT innovation prize that Jedox was awarded earlier this year. What is your prediction for providers of BI and planning software? Where is BI heading?
Professor Ginnold: I mainly see two predominant topics: One is the self-service that we emphasize in our courses and projects. There are many heterogeneous user groups in a company that do not need support from a hyper organization. The departments should work independently instead and benefit from taking matters into their own hands. I think that self-service BI is a successful concept and that Jedox provides excellent options for users to design BI solutions on their own because the software is easy to use.
Secondly, cloud BI is certainly a promising topic that my students have dealt with scientifically through extensive application comparisons in the cloud. I also see a huge potential for Jedox in this respect: Mainly medium-sized companies often do not have the resources and required IT infrastructure to quickly solve business administration issues. Cloud applications, especially those with preconfigured contents, may offer huge opportunities.
Professor Ginnold, thank you very much for the interview.
Reinhard Ginnold studied business data processing at the University of Applied Sciences for Economics from 1967 to 1971. Since 1992, he has been an associate and visiting professor for business applications in data processing at FHTW Berlin (today HTW Berlin). Keypoints of his work are business IT applications in and between companies, Business Intelligence applications, and IT application for human resources management.
In 1997, Ginnold was appointed professor for business information technology at HTW Berlin. Since October 2014, he continues courses with BI projects and final papers as professor emeritus. Ginnold has been an independent lecturer for Gesellschaft der Information (GI) since 1999.
The Jedox Academic Program
Since the introduction of its academic program in 2006, Jedox AG has supported approximately 100 institutions of higher education around the globe with free-of-charge licenses. Apart from HTW Berlin, the TU München, FH Köln, Hochschule Mannheim, TU Dresden, Utrecht University, and University of Edinburgh use Jedox software for teaching. The academic program of the leading provider of Business Intelligence and Performance Management solutions enables all state-registered institutions of higher education to apply for Jedox licenses and use them in their seminars and projects.