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Customer Snapshot

"Seeing Blue" While Staying in the Black


Expected ROI on
big data analysis


From championship basketball to nationally ranked programs in public affairs and healthcare, the University of Kentucky (UK) is a popular and highly respected institution of higher learning in the USA. Today, UK uses SAP HANA to manage the advanced analytics that help support and educate 28,000 students, and improve the efficiency of 14,000 faculty and staff members.


With fierce worldwide competition, universities are vying to make the highly publicized and well-known
lists of Top Colleges. At UK, the faculty and staff work together to ensure a successful experience for every student. This, plus more obvious claims to fame keep them on those lists.


University of Kentucky


Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Customer Website



US$2.68 billion (budget)

Number of Employees


Implementation Partners

SAP Consulting (implementation partner), Dell Inc. (hardware partner)

Line of Business

Information Technology


Higher Education & Research

Featured Products



UK in the USA, since 1865


  • 1865The University of Kentucky, also known as UK, founded John Bowman as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky.
  • 1876 The college began to offer Master's degree programs.
  • 1882The official colors of the college, royal blue and white, were adopted. The Administration Building was the first building of three completed on the present campus.
  • 1885Formed the Agricultural Experiment Station to research issues relating to agribusiness, food processing, nutrition, water and soil resources, and the environment. Followed up by the creation of the Agricultural Extension service in 1910, which was one of the first in the United States.
  • 1904Patterson Hall, the school's first women's dormitory, was constructed.
  • 1916The school's name was changed to the "University of Kentucky".
  • 1949The university became racially integrated when an African American named Lyman T. Johnson won a lawsuit to be admitted to the graduate program.
  • 1955Ground was broken for the Albert B. Chandler Hospital. This was completed after a series of studies were conducted that highlighted the health needs of the Kentucky’s citizens, as well as the need to train more physicians for the state.
  • 1979The University of Kentucky hosted the first Kentucky Women Writers Conference, which is now the longest-running conference of its kind. The Kentucky Women Writers Conference is now in its 31st year.
  • 1997The Kentucky General Assembly formed a compact with the university.
  • 2007The University of Kentucky endowment totals US$831.8 million.

Success Strategy

Goal: Improve student retention rates by 10%

They call it “seeing blue” in Lexington, and the student experience is paramount to everyone at UK. “We all share the same objective,” says Vince Kellen, Chief Information Officer at the University of Kentucky, “which is helping each of our 28,000 students to be more successful here.” Helping students be successful ultimately equates to them staying in school to earn the degree they seek.


How Leveraging Data Could Help


For the school’s IT staff, part of their mission is leveraging better data integration and advanced analytics to build an even stronger institution. UK is particularly interested in using its technology to help raise retention and graduation rates, optimize the use of university resources, and support “personalized education” for students.

The Challenge

Improving student outcomes with data analysis

UK’s Top Four Objectives:

  • Provide holistic view of data by integrating various data sources
  • Improve UK student retention and graduation rates by enabling earlier intervention by faculty advisors
  • Gain greater insight into finances and use of resources
  • Reduce data infrastructure costs


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How can the UK get the data that will actually help students stay enrolled?

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You get to the point where your whole day is running reports.

Enter SAP

Groundbreaking technology improvement

As an existing customer, UK was familiar with SAP solutions. But a SAPPHIRE® NOW conference gave school leaders the opportunity to learn about something new – the SAP HANA platform.


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How to make this more real-time and fast…more importantly, very, very smart

“It became clear to me right then that in-memory computing was groundbreaking,” explains Kellen.“It would provide the technology we needed to address our most complex analytical problems.”

The SAP Experience

Fast implementation, faster queries – on big data

Besides the impressive rapid integration, which was a 2½-day initial setup driven by SAP Consulting and Dell Inc., the University was able to immediately integrate large amounts of data.


“We went from a 20 minutes to a 1 second query execution time…that’s an unbelievable performance improvement.”

Running Better

SAP HANA gives University of Kentucky a new approach to using its “Big Data”

Consider an example of students studying at the school’s William T. Young Library, where UK administrators have a lot of information at their disposal. The school’s production system contains about 1.5 terabytes (TB) of data. Its data warehouses hold another 4 TB. But in the past, UK had to extract this data from several source systems and load it into a large Oracle data warehouse. Hours were spent each day just moving data around, leaving less time for in-depth data analysis.


By deploying SAP HANA, the university was able to retire its legacy data warehouse and accompanying software, such as its extract, transform, and load (ETL) tools. SAP HANA has also transformed the university’s ability to conduct real-time data analysis and modeling, which is being used to improve student experiences, retention and graduation rates, and to increase operational and financial performance at UK.


Quantifiable results are always good

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87% reduction in extract, transform, and load times. 80% amount of data updated in real time.

According to an analysis by market intelligence firm IDC, the University of Kentucky will gain approximately $6.17 million in benefits over the next five years, including reductions in infrastructure costs, increases in staff productivity, and business benefits such as improvements in classroom utilization and increased tuition income by raising graduation rates. Those gains represent an estimated return on investment of 509%.


$6.17 million

in benefits



average data compression



ROI after only 9 months



Reaching out to help students – instantly

Acting upon a deeper understanding of specific success factors can help make a UK degree a reality for even more graduates. For example, the university now uses its analytic capabilities to quickly identify students who need additional support in their critical first weeks on campus. With early identification, the university can take steps to provide personalized services to such students.


In fact, many of the university’s data analysis initiatives directly support its goal to improve retention rates by 10%, and the university has set the ambitious goal of increasing its six-year graduation rate from 60% to 70% in the next ten years. By redefining student success and targeting it with data, IDC estimates that UK could increase tuition income by $210,800 per year over five years.


UK is also using visualizations enabled by SAP HANA to identify classroom utilization patterns. Optimized utilization means the university can accommodate greater enrollment without the need for new construction.


According to IDC, improved classroom utilization and decreased capital costs will average $807,500 annually, or more than $4 million in five years.

Journey Ahead

Benefits that extend into the future

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Continuously understanding the value of this technology and the ways we can use it.

Shrinking federal and state funding to universities could force UK to raise tuition. SAP HANA is helping UK offset these funding decreases by eliminating costs and preserving income. The university stands to gain an average annual benefit of $1.85 million per year by reducing software and hardware administration expenses, increasing staff productivity, optimizing facilities utilization, and improving student retention.


Improving graduation rates and minimizing attrition with personalized student resources will help preserve tuition income.

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