Everyone agrees that business intelligence (BI) in Higher Education is a big draw. We’ve been talking with a lot of institutional research (IR) departments over the last year and everyone sees the benefit of centralized data, automated reporting, distributed dashboards, better forecasts of student outcomes and finances, improved collaboration, and trusted data behind the decisions! (What’s not to like?)

Yet, everyone also feels the pain of still doing things the old way and missing the boat on this crucial need. You’ve been talking about this for a while and you’re not moving forward – and it’s frustrating. How can you get this train moving?

For all of the support we hear about the problems and solutions when we talk to IR professionals, we also hear of a lack of progress to ‘get off the dime’. And before long, there goes another semester without progress. Why is this?

Do any of our observations sound familiar?

  • The problem is nebulous, and therefore hard to ‘sell’ to whoever has the budget. IR generally does not have freedom to purchase.
  • The problem is scattered, and while IR is in the best position to pull it all together, they generally do not have enough authority to drive decisions – and must get a lot of buy-in from people above them or in other departments. They struggle with this.
  • IT is driving the train since everyone believes that this is a technology project (it’s not!, IT should certainly be in the middle, but this is a business project – period!)
  • Colleges think this is a big project, and they can’t commit spare time or money for a big project, so they continue to struggle along – with ever more requests and ever fewer resources.
  • Colleges start by looking for software rather than by prototyping with tools they already have, this puts any benefits off to the distant future and omits the people/process work that’s needed.
  • Colleges don’t typically have experience running a big project as an institution, and don’t know how to ask for or use outside help.
  • Colleges don’t really know what they want exactly out of a BI investment, or what a KPI is, or how they’ll use them when they get them in their fancy dashboards.

But how to get started?

If IR could just get the provost to see the vision that IR sees – a “college control center” where all the data is available, trusted, up to date and useful and that truly measures success and highlights steps to be taken to improve – then there would be no stopping it.

We see that success in BI projects is driven by a few key factors that are not technology and usually do not get on the list of requirements that IT puts together. They include good collaboration, clear business benefits and goals, deep attention to data quality, transparency, automation, and my favorite – change management. These are hard to describe, define and measure and so colleges often don’t take steps to address these, and projects either go nowhere or go down the wrong roads.

Our Suggestion

Pick small, manageable problems that need solving in the short term and contribute to success in the long term, and have IR put a team together to solve them. SmartDataDecisions.com (SDD) has found that a good outcome from a low-hanging fruit project has dual benefit:

  • A problem gets solved, or at least improved.
  • And—perhaps more importantly—a team has a win. Next Problem Please? Instant incentive to move forward.

SDD delivers many focused workshops on executing key components of a “college control center” BI solution—any of which will help get you closer to your ideal vision. All other parts of your BI strategy essentially depend on these building blocks. We offer these as options for you to consider as a way to quickly and inexpensively get momentum and progress at one shot. Check it out.

We’re all in this together. Let us know how you’re coping and how you plan to avoid another semester of waiting.