Using the Senturus Analytics Connector to connect Tableau to their secure, curated data in Cognos, Northwestern University drastically cut the time it takes to deliver reports. Data is served up quickly and accurately and KPIs are automatically updated–like magic.

Watch the on-demand webinar with Northwestern 


Spread across several campuses in the Chicago area, Northwestern University receives some $675 million of sponsored research award funding annually. It’s important that they track and measure research success, departmental performance and administrative efficiencies related to those dollars across their different schools.

The data for receiving and managing the distribution of contributions is modeled in Cognos. Tableau is used to develop and disseminate the funding reports with various departments.

The process of getting data out of Cognos and into Tableau was time intensive, complicated and error prone. Cognos was essentially being used for ETL followed by exercises involving complicated Excel spreadsheets and VLOOKUPs to marry up the data. This process would be repeated weekly, monthly or quarterly depending on the reports needed.

  • By the time analysts delivered the reports, the data was stale.
  • It was difficult to get correct numbers together, since data was coming in from different sources.
  • Given the institutional research that deals with millions of dollars in highly sensitive grants, security was also a chief concern.

University leadership wanted to keep their data secure in Cognos and have live data flow through to Tableau without additional work. They wanted to improve the speed and timeliness of reports and allow management to view up-to-the-minute KPIs.


Senturus deployed the Analytics Connector giving Northwestern’s Tableau users direct access to the up-to-date, secure, organized data in Cognos. 

  • Departments access the same single source for the data underlying all their reporting.
  • Updates in Cognos automatically flow through to Tableau.
  • Reports are updated daily and provide immediate access to YTD data and the ability to quickly filter by parameters such as day, month, week, sponsor category, department and success rate.
  • Tableau users are prompted for their secure login; Cognos security is maintained automatically.
  • The University securely embedded interactive Tableau dashboards into a custom-built website (via SharePoint) providing the research and medical departments one-click access to live data on a variety of metrics.


Northwestern drastically cut the amount of time it takes to deliver reports. Reports are now immediately available to senior administration. With timely access to data and the ability to drill down into metrics, they are able to understand the “why” behind their KPIs and to respond quickly.

  • Drastically cut the time the departments spent putting out reports.
  • Complicated business logic no longer needs to be reproduced in Tableau, but is simply pulled from existing, verified Cognos packages.
  • Senior leadership gets dynamically updated KPIs.
  • Highly sensitive data is secured.
  • Department heads feel confident in the numbers being reported.

Watch the on-demnd webinar with Northwestern    

  • Northwestern can actively monitor the award processing pipeline. and readjust workloads to ensure award money is ready to spend within their target timeframe.
  • Northwestern can easily marry up Tableau reports with static data outside the local data store, allowing for expanded analysis.
  • Users can drill down on the bars or lines in Tableau vizzes and get the data underpinning the metrics.



Our senior leadership is able to access dynamically updated KPIs. The Senturus Analytics Connector makes us look like magicians.
Kimberley Griffin
Director for Electronic Research Administration
Northwestern University

About our client

Northwestern University is a private research university in Evanston, Illinois. Founded in 1851, Northwestern is the oldest chartered university in Illinois and is ranked among the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.

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