Ufi learndirect, the government-backed "university for industry" and e-learning network, is using analytical reporting software to get a better view of its target market and help it achieve its goal of enlisting one million learners by 2005.
Project manager David Morgan says the implementation will help Ufi learndirect gain a greater awareness of what learners really want. The ultimate aim is to use its improved knowledge base to target potential learners with the type of course they might be interested in.
However, Morgan says the initial aim of the project is to make information more readily accessible to managers via weekly and monthly reports, including information such as the number of new and repeat learners, demand for Ufi learndirect's 700 courses, geographical statistics and response rates to awareness-building campaigns.
"Trends, highlights and profiles of learner behaviour suddenly become apparent and you can find things that reinforce what you feel about the business," says Morgan. "We can now manage that volume of information and make it useful. It is basically transforming the way we do our business. We can now accurately monitor and forecast based on the information we have."
By presenting its staff with a "multi-dimensional" view of data and categories held within the information database the software will allow staff to look at the reports in different ways to spot trends and patterns more easily.
Morgan says the organisation needed a tool such as this to help it get an up-to-date view of its data because the volume of data it deals with has grown dramatically in a very short period of time and changes markedly every month.
Since its launch in 2000, Ufi learndirect has helped about 500,000 adults acquire new knowledge and skills. "We are quite an information-rich company because everything has been developed online," says Morgan.
The tool should also help learndirect allocate funding better to its various partner agencies and could be a useful tool for local marketing, adds Morgan.
Ufi learndirect is headquartered in Sheffield and has nine regional offices plus offices in Wales and Scotland. Each office supports between 10 and 15 hubs, with about 70 learning centres per hub.
The first phase of the pilot project involves 100 users spread over the whole of the geographical base. The second phase, due to begin in December, will see Ufi learndirect start to use historical data captured online to forecast requirements for courses.
The project is based on Executive Viewer analytical reporting software and a database management system from analytical software firm Temtec, with whom Ufi learndirect has signed a £150,000 contract.