Every day I hear reports related to the tough times ahead for higher education institutions. Everyone is being tasked to do more with less, to perform better with less. Institutions need to leverage every tool available to them to improve. Most institutions are sitting on years and years of data about their students, staff, and finances. And that data can tell you a lot about where you have been, and where you need to go.
The beauty is–you already own this data; you just need to convert it into useable information and get it into the hands of those who manage the resources of the institution. ECAR (EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research) recently published a report related to analytics in higher education. It’s a great read, and the report suggests that the use of data for analytics within the industry is becoming a hot topic at the right time.
I was particularly struck by two findings in the report:
- “Institutions should focus their investments on expertise, process, and policies before acquiring new tools or collecting additional data.”
- “Institutions that have made more progress in Investment, Culture/Process, Data/Reporting/Tools, Expertise, and Governance/Infrastructure are more likely to use data to make predictions or projections or to trigger action in a variety of areas.”
From what I have witnessed, given the appropriate time and resources, most technical staffs working with their appropriate functional counterparts are very competent at implementing technology.
Unfortunately, from what I have also witnessed, sometimes that is where the potential use of information stops, or lags. Information in itself is not power; the use of information is.
I have seen institutions do a stellar job of putting together a sound information delivery infrastructure only to find out that the information consumers are still running the same reports they ran 10 years ago. To me that signals that the consumers of this information, not the producers, need to get more engaged to develop better understandings of how to use this valuable asset they already own.
Specifically, they need to be better at leveraging the tools and functionality delivered with new business intelligence platforms to help them to improve what they do at their institutions, whether that’s recruiting, admissions, advancement, finance, human resources or something else.
They need to ask, how do I become a better analyst? How do I break down my part of the process to make it more transparent? What are my performance drivers?
When technology is successfully implemented, and a culture of continuous process improvement and managing for performance becomes a systemic way of life, information truly becomes a valuable asset.
- Scott Cupach
Senior Strategic Consultant, Ellucian