How to Feel Better About Your Data Warehouse Fiasco

Here’s a little predictive analytics:

About a year ago, I took a swipe at the “$80 million supercomputer to analyze NYC student achievement.” It smelled more like a super sales job than a super useful analytical tool.

At the time I had said:

Teachers are underpaid, hardly appreciated, and overworked. I can only wonder what the half-life is of a system that asks teachers to log on to get information delivered by the “chief accountability officer.”

Well, it appears that things haven’t gone that smoothly with the supercomputer. Today, I received a link from Leonie Haimson, a NYC education advocate, to a story entitled SCHOOLS COMPUTER AN $80M ‘DISASTER’.

Not only has the supercomputer struggled to gain much traction with users (“The school system’s new $80 million computer super system to track student performance has been a super debacle, teachers and principals say”), it has coincided with severe budget cuts.

We see these data warehousing problems all the time with our clients, and the NYC supercomputer displays all the hallmarks:

  • Delivery delays: Nearly six months after the Department of Education unveiled the “first of its kind” data-management system, the city’s 80,000 teachers have yet to log on because of glitches and delays.

  • Bad user experience: Many principals have complained that it runs slowly, lacks vital information, and is often too frustrating to use.

  • Complicated training and set-up: School officials were hoping to have everyone hooked up and trained within months delays in creating IDs and passwords for teachers
  • Trying to do too much, delivering too little: The principal added that she preferred to get student information from a combination of old data systems “rather than wait for ARIS to churn and churn and churn and maybe give me half the report I need.”
  • Massive cost: Complaints about the expensive system—on which nearly $35 million has been spent so far—have gotten louder since the city unceremoniously chopped $100 million from individual school budgets last month.
  • And yet, few success anecdotes to justify the investment: ARIS had already enabled her data team to analyze the performance trends of the school’s many English-language learners.

It does offer one thing that I haven’t seen before: a Chief Accountability Officer.