IT Forum Perspectives

The data-driven enterprise, part I



Getting from A-to-B on BI

Kevin Danchisko, Analyst
IT Forum

An increasingly important goal of college presidents and boards is to run an organization based on data-driven decisions—but making it a reality is no small feat.

From streamlined operational reporting to predictive analytics, business intelligence (BI) and the insights it can provide are on everyone’s wish list. Unfortunately, the highly decentralized nature of colleges and universities paired with inconsistent data (among other factors) can make it difficult to get BI initiatives off the ground and running sustainably.

As part of our inaugural research agenda, we’re taking a deep dive into the necessary foundation for data-driven decision-making. The Business Affair Forum’s 2010 study, Developing a Data-Driven University, made the case for an increase in reporting and analytical capacity and the adoption of central metrics as the basis for executive decision-making. That research was written for a CBO audience, and this year, we’re adding a “CIO lens” while looking into the challenge of becoming data-driven.

Our research into data-driven decision-making in higher education has surfaced three key elements that can help institutions get from A-to-B on BI. This is the first in a series of posts that will cover each of these elements in detail.


Element 1: Investment in Skills and Architecture

Through our conversations with CIOs and others across campus, it’s evident that many IT groups lack the skills and resources necessary for data warehousing and analytics. One foundational step to get moving in the right direction is making the case for investment, and assembling those necessary resources. We’re documenting tactics that have helped build working BI capabilities at colleges and universities.

These practices address issues that can stand in the way (and which probably sound familiar) such as:

Expensive and hard to find BI staff
Analytics skills are in high demand in industry, making it extremely difficult for universities to compete for and hire individuals with such skills. Our research has surfaced practices that address this problem and help universities obtain the talent they need for BI.

Lack of necessary executive support
Without support from top leadership, a university’s BI efforts cannot grow and develop a truly data-driven culture across campus.

EAB has identified elements of successful presentations that have helped garner university leadership support for BI efforts.


Decentralized—rather than focused—analytics efforts across campus
As functional staff have become more interested in using data for decision-making, a proliferation of locally-optimized systems and tools has occurred on many campuses.

This has created a disorganized, “thousand flowers blooming” scenario that can make centralized BI efforts even more challenging. We’ve uncovered methods for reining in and pulling together the far-flung data efforts across campus.

IT Forum Members, Learn More at Our CIO Roundtable

We’ll go in-depth on our research on the data-driven enterprise during our meeting series this winter. Sessions begin in January, so make sure to save your seat now before we reach capacity.

Register now


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