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Committing to Analytics

Over the past few months, my colleague, Bob Kozak, has presented a series about the importance of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in successful project delivery and as alerts to current trends. While discussing Result and Driver metrics, he emphasized that metrics are developed to create the path your organization should follow to arrive at your goals / destination. Keep in mind that information and trends change constantly. Therefore, your path needs to be agile enough to encompass those changes. Your metrics or Analytics program should deliver the input necessary to adjust and grow along the way.


Higher Education institutions are awash in data—admissions, financial aid, student records, grades, retention, alumni information and much more. For three years running, “Using Analytics to help drive critical institutional outcomes” has been in Educause’s “Top Ten IT Issues.” (Find the complete list for 2014 here.) The inference for me is that Higher Ed is behind other sectors in applying Analytics to strategic goals.

Result and Driver metrics, trend analysis and forecasting, and defined alert systems provide continuous feedback to strategic goals. And the feedback, in turn, should be adjusted as the goals change. In other words, setting up an Analytics program is not a one and done proposition.

How to Get Commitment
The key to a robust Analytics program is institution-wide commitment. In working with Higher Ed institutions we find that roles tend to be siloed, not clearly defined and the resources to make a commitment are limited. The emerging role of the “Data Scientist” focuses the analysis of data across many interests and brings together three groups—Institutional Research, IT and teaching and learning.

Without each of these groups, Analytics and the innovation that it supports throughout the organization will not happen. Each brings their own perspective to the table and, working in concert with the Data Scientist, produces an Analytics program more likely to succeed. Alone, Institutional Research may tend to focus narrowly on a specific problem; IT may propose a solution in need of a problem; and, teaching and learning may be inclined to focus on traditional methods. But together, these areas supply the critical thinking necessary to positively influence student outcomes.

Analytics and Student Success
So how are Analytics related to student success? Providing students with the ability to evolve to do what they love to do is a primary purpose of Higher Ed institutions. In order for institutions to help students evolve, the institutions themselves need to continue to evolve. Key components to continuously evolving include:

  • Understanding the role of Analytics
  • Setting up metrics for strategic goals – including student success
  • Analyzing metrics
  • Creating actionable plans
  • Evaluating those actions

Analytics Benefits are Worth the Work
In the end, making use of Analytics to achieve strategic goals takes effort. It is not an automatic process. The data requires action and commitment to produce the desired results. But it is encouraging to know that Analytics is a powerful tool available to institutions, and one that has the potential to create true change.




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