Assisting The University of Queensland’s data journey to understand space utilisation

Betfair Logo

The University of Queensland (UQ) is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching institutions. They strive for excellence through the creation, preservation, transfer and application of knowledge. For more than a century, they have educated and worked with outstanding people to deliver knowledge leadership for a better world.

Betfair Main Image

At a Glance

  • The University of Queensland (UQ) increases student experience with the help of cloud and analytics consultancy Servian and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
  • UQ has created a centralised data repository to support the data analytics needs of the organisation.
  • Servian assisted UQ with the data science, statistical modelling and visualisation side of the repository and has provided ongoing support to the resultant data analytics projects.
  • The first project, relating to the utilisation of physical space within the university, is delivering immediate benefits.
  • Servian is helping to build UQ’s data analytics capability and provide ongoing support for future analytics projects.

Delivering Data-as-a-Service (DaaS)

Data can provide incredible insights into the operation of any business, but accessing and analysing it effectively requires significant technical and business expertise.

For UQ, its journey to building a sophisticated data analytics capability started two years ago with the creation of a centralised data repository which could be used to solve business problems, dubbed Data-as-a- Service.

Data engineering and software professionals from within UQ worked closely with AWS Professional Services to establish the initial data lake environment, assisted by expertise from cloud and analytics consultancy, Servian.

According to UQ’s Manager, Analytics Data Services, Lachlan Kuhn, this initiative is part of an emerging program that will deliver increasing value to the university.

“For some time now, UQ has recognised the power of data to transform our institution, and we want to become a more data-driven organisation,” he says. “We see a wealth of opportunities to leverage data and improve operational efficiencies and service delivery, especially
for our student population. In order to fulfil these goals, we need to develop capabilities for dealing with Big Data, including data engineering, advanced analytics and data science.”

Data outcomes in the physical realm

UQ identified an initial batch of
10 use cases that could benefit from its DaaS capability, relating to problems the university had been wrestling with for years but had previously lacked the platform or skillset to solve.

“We wanted to know we were getting the most out of our teaching rooms and informal learning spaces,” Kuhn said. “At the same time, we recognised that our Wi-Fi logs were a vast untapped resource that could tell us a lot about how our campus is being occupied.”

“UQ made a strategic decision to engage professional services to help assist with the analysis of the Wi-Fi logs. We partnered with Servian, who were able to help us with translating the raw data into actionable insights, useful for people making business decisions,” Kuhn says.

The first project involves how
the university is using its physical spaces, and supports its desire to improve student and staff experience by providing efficient and effective work environments.

The success of the initial partnership with Servian and the strong working relationship that was established between their staff and the UQ team made it
a natural partner to advise on development and deployment of this new project.

With student and staff privacy being a high priority for the university, the project was designed in such a way that it
did not track individual student behaviour or location, with all data anonymised from the outset to ensure it cannot be tagged back to any one person.

The Benefits

“The benefits arising from this initiative have been substantial,” Kuhn says. “The additional layer of support we’ve been able to provide to those people making building investment decisions has been truly ground-breaking.”

Servian brought in experts in data science, statistical modelling and data visualisation, and augmented the UQ team’s software and data engineering expertise by helping it quickly get up-to-speed around possibilities for data analytics. Servian used AWS’s interactive query service, Athena, for data analysis, and the results were presented visually using Tableau. This gave business users an easy-to-use interface through which they could query data to support decision-making.

The project yielded immediate benefits by
helping teams tasked with creating timetables to understand how facilities were actually being used.

“We can get an informed view of space usage across the day, week, semester – and quickly identify and respond to irregularities,” Kuhn says. “But this is not just a retrospective look at what’s happened – it also gives us a predictive capability that is invaluable to our timetabling team.”

The output of the project can also help inform commercial decisions, such as whether to remodel or refurbish existing spaces or invest in new capital development.

Metadata Driven ETL

The Benefits

“The ability to harness the power of data will be critical to UQ’s ability to thrive in an increasingly competitive higher education market,” Kuhn said. “Data, and specifically advanced data analytics, will play a vital role in the long- term future and direction of the university.”

Putting data to work

The success of this initial project has generated significant interest across the university and led other business units to ask how they might also use the DaaS platform.

“We are constantly finding new data sets to onboard as people become more aware of the service we are providing,” Kuhn says. “We were seeing increased demand to utilise curated data in end-user applications. People are interested in building end-user applications in collaboration with our service.”

Kuhn says the AWS data lake is providing a scalable platform that can support a pipeline of future analytics projects. He says the combination of AWS technology along with Servian’s analytics expertise and UQ’s own deep expertise within data engineering and software engineering has created a true three-way partnership that is supporting the university’s ambitions to be a true data-driven organisation.

“The company brings a wealth of experience in analytics with particular skill in data science and statistical modelling, as well as strong expertise in data visualisation,” he says. “We found the Servian team to be a very satisfactory fit in our organisation – most notably, their preparedness to work as part of our team and acknowledge the capabilities that exist within the UQ Analytics Data Services team.”

The relationship with Servian is delivering on UQ’s ambition to become a data-driven organisation.

Learn more about what Servian can do for you

Get in contact with our team to explore new opportunities

Why Servian

We drive a competitive advantage for our customers by enabling them to become truly data driven. We help organisations design and implement robust enterprise data management strategies and data platforms that ensure the security, accuracy, and reliability of their data. Our services in data and analytics span across advisory, consulting and managed services.

Book a free consultation to learn more