IT Forum Perspectives

Focus on central data to advance BI efforts

The data-driven enterprise, part III

Kevin Danchisko, Analyst
IT Forum

We’ve previously covered how to make the case for BI investment and how to structure data governance efforts to promote sustainability as components of our ongoing research on a data-driven enterprise.

In our final post of the series, we discuss the third element and step in the process of moving from point A to point B on BI: agreeing on central data as the source of truth.

Step 3: Agreement on Central Data as the Source of Truth

To gain traction, BI initiatives need to shift away from persistent (and ever proliferating) data silos in favor of a more centralized data repository to serve as a “single source of truth” across campus. CIOs and their teams must ensure that campus members can use institutional data to drive key insights.

In many cases, they have a key role to play helping users (including deans, the provost, and leaders in other functions) identify the right questions to ask surrounding data. What are the key metrics to track beyond basic reporting numbers? How can I use insights from data to improve student success outcomes? To accomplish these goals, BI teams must connect with functional users in two key ways:

Garner trust in the data to help ensure use of the centralized data source
“Data denial” by end users can be fatal to adoption of the central data source. It can allow, or even encourage, the continued use of shadow systems, like desktop spreadsheet databases.

Facilitate effective communication between data warehousing staff and functional unit staff
Back-and-forth communication ensures that campus members are answering the questions that will be most useful to them while using the most applicable datasets for their queries.

Of course, these approaches rely on the existence of an effective and sustainable data governance model, which in turn relies on successfully making the case for investment in BI. The intertwined nature of these elements helps explain why business intelligence remains beyond the grasp of many institutions.

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