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Skyward Educator Newsletter

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 Summer 2010 Educator   VOLUME 5 ISSUE 2  
Automate Paper-Intensive Processes with Skyward's Workflow Module
2009-2010 User Group Recap
Gifted and Talented is Now Part of the Student Core
Meet Jason Smith, Skyward Systems Programming Manager
Twin Lakes District Spotlight
Meet Jason Smith, Skyward Systems Programming Manager
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“Skyward’s Research and Development Department is a window to the future.”

Jason Smith, Skyward Systems Programming Manager, can sum up his experience working in the Research and Development Department at Skyward in those short and profound words.  By showing a passion for his area of specialty at work, as well as his free time, Jason has become a valued member of the Skyward team and he has been an integral architect for many of Skyward’s internal and external programs.

Text Box: Born:  Kenosha, Wisconsin

Family:  Wife, Nancy (who works in the Skyward State Reporting Department), son, Dylan - 14 months old

Current Position:  Systems Programming Manager

Fact:  Jason helped develop Skyward’s newest module, Data Warehouse

Fun Fact:  Jason is a part of a top 10 trivia team for WWSP 90FM’s World’s Largest Trivia Contest, broadcast annually in Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Jason grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a degree in Computer Information Systems.  In 1998, after graduating from college, Jason started at Skyward as a research and development programmer, Jason says he has been programming since he was in first grade, and it’s what he has always done and what he has always wanted to do.  One of the initial projects Jason worked on was the first web-based program in the Skyward Student Management Suite™, what was then known as Teacher Access.  Jason was also a part of the team that developed Skyward Family Access, one of Skyward’s most popular modules, which bridges the relationship between school-home communications by providing an online portal for parents to check grades, attendance, and food service information.

With an eye for researching existing and future trends in software and technology, Jason quickly rose to a management position.  He currently oversees seven people in the Research and Development Department and works diligently on Skyward’s internal customer resource management tool, known as RMS.  RMS is the brain center for Skyward’s corporate operations and is used to manage and report on everything from details of customer service inquiries, to scheduling implementations, to tracking requests for enhancements (RFE), and scheduling programming tasks.  An invaluable resource to Skyward’s operations, RMS provides the information needed to allow the company to continue to move forward and allocate the necessary resources for continued company growth and improvements to the software.

By building this internal tool that is used company-wide, Jason became well aware that businesses needed a versatile and easy-to-use reporting tool that can quickly run reports to help assess the needs of the company.  Jason used his knowledge of programming RMS to research the development of Skyward’s newest module for school districts, Data Warehouse.

Skyward recognized the need for school districts to have a data warehouse system to more effectively evaluate educational services and to improve processes for making long-term decisions.  Using a data warehouse, districts can produce a visual representation of student data to see trends over time and to target which educational services are producing the best results and which ones are in need of modifications.
Jason was an integral member of the committee that researched a data warehouse system to integrate into Skyward.  After meeting with multiple vendors, the group realized that 3rd party data warehouse systems took a significantly long time to upload data from Skyward and to run reports.

“In the end, we felt by developing our own data warehouse, Skyward could satisfy customers’ needs more effectively and provide them with a cost-effective and user-friendly program,” said Smith.

Jason said the area that makes 3rd party data warehouse systems the most cumbersome is a process called extract, transform, and load (ETL).  This process transfers data from a student information system to the data warehouse system and requires identifying the field being transferring and the field that is being analyzed.  Sometimes the fields use different characteristics or the field does not exist at all.  Jason said the difficult ETL process made Skyward’s decision to build its own data warehouse a much easier decision to make.

This example of Data Warehouse shows two graphs with breakdowns of the number of students with specific lunch codes and student count by entity.
“We are so proud that it only took us one year to complete Data Warehouse and to accomplish what other companies could not,” said Smith.  “We know our own data and the ETL process we developed takes advantage of that.  We can get a customer up and running in a couple of days and creating reports in minutes.”

Skyward’s Data Warehouse system currently has Attendance, Student Activities, Demographics, Discipline, Scheduling, and Secondary GradeBook built into the system for reporting.  Finance and Human Resources information can also be pulled into Data Warehouse by using the simplified ETL process that Jason and his team helped develop.

Jason said another one of the benefits of Data Warehouse, and of all Skyward programs, is that they are designed specifically with the customer in mind.  Developing software that is user-friendly has been a top priority for Skyward from the start, and Jason plays an instrumental role in helping Skyward achieve that goal.

“One of the things I really enjoy about Skyward as a company is that my opinion is taken seriously,” said Smith.  “I can really shape the future of what happens in the development of the software.”

Published by Skyward, Inc.
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