Successful, Speedy Activity Insight Implementation with University of Michigan School of Public Health

Successful, Speedy Activity Insight Implementation with University of Michigan School of Public Health

When the University of Michigan School of Public Health (MPH) implemented faculty activity reporting software to replace its internal faculty salary merit review system, it also took on a far more ambitious project: powering analytics with faculty activity data. The result is visualizations that represent both the quality and quantity of faculty’s teaching, research and service. Sam Russell, Business Analyst with Michigan Public Health, shared the school’s journey from internal system to visualizations of faculty performance at our recent User Group. In this post, we’ll explore MPH’s rapid Activity Insight implementation. Next time, we’ll look at how they’re using faculty activity data from Activity Insight in Tableau dashboards, showing context, ranking and analytics.


The University of Michigan School of Public Health began its pursuit of a healthier world in 1941. Among its notable accomplishments over the past 76 years include monitoring the tests that proved the Salk polio vaccine safe and effective and holding the first Earth Day. Ranked among the top public health schools in the country, Michigan Public Health educates and trains more than 1,000 graduate and undergraduate students each year.

Why Activity Insight?

Michigan Public Health decided to replace its internal faculty salary merit review system when its interest in delving more deeply into data revealed the system’s shortcomings. “It mixed data entry and reporting, and the resulting information wasn’t consumable,” Russell said. “The way we collected the data made it very difficult to compare records.” In addition, the system wasn’t intuitive for users, requiring a lot of navigation to enter activities.

Russell’s team identified the immediate benefits of implementing Activity Insight as:

  • Reduced manual data entry
  • Consistent and defined data
  • Being the single source of data
  • Customization and support to meet MPH’s specific needs
  • Wide range of functionality and integrations to support future objectives for the system

“Customization and support from Digital Measures were key” to success, Russell said. “The DM Development team has been very willing and understanding of some of the very specific requests we had in setting up our screens and reports.”

Fast, Single Focus Start

Choose a Partner, Not a VendorMichigan Public Health set an ambitious implementation timeline with a single initial goal of using Activity Insight for faculty merit review reporting. Implementation began in December 2016, and the system was ready for faculty in March 2017. Faculty and their proxies had until mid-May to enter activity data ahead of the June 15 beginning of faculty merit reviews.

To ensure successful adoption, Russell’s team held feedback sessions at different times in the implementation for faculty test drive the system and share challenges or concerns. Then Russell’s team held drop-in labs several times a week for several weeks so faculty and proxies could try the system and get answers to questions. MPH also leveraged Activity Insight data integrations with Crossref and PubMed to reduce data entry for faculty and proxies. Finally, Russell tapped a small campus team who worked on the previous system to help guide the initial look and feel of Activity Insight.

“We bring in data from the University of Michigan data warehouse and local sources in departments within MPH, data integrations with other campus systems, plus the data entered by department managers, faculty and proxies. It may seem like we have a lot of data sources, but it all comes to us through Activity Insight,” Russell said.

Hallmarks of Success

MPH got some key things right during its implementation, according to Brett Bernsteen, Digital Measures Senior Onboarding Consultant:

  • A project team with the right people in the right roles, including the assistant dean of administration serving as project champion
  • A system administrator with three critical skills: technical knowledge, business analysis experience and the willingness to engage and understand the needs of faculty and university leadership

“Something that stood out immediately is that Sam’s project team trusted his decisions,” Bernsteen said. “He had the right combination of skills as well as the trust from his team. That allowed him to move quickly toward their goal of faculty merit reviews.” Learn more about selecting the right project team here or contact us here to schedule a consultation.

In the next post, we’ll look at how MPH is using faculty activity data from Activity Insight in Tableau dashboards, showing context, ranking and analytics in its faculty merit review process.

Review Processes Don't Have to be Hard

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *