COE Organizational Benchmarking Initiative

Evaluating the impact of operational and governance structures on productivity and growth


How is the COE Organizational Benchmarking Initiative different from other benchmarking efforts?

While there’s been no shortage of organizational benchmarking efforts in the profession, Forum members noted that past efforts have fallen short in two critical ways.

Typical benchmarking approaches leave COE's ultimate questions unanswered

First, previous surveys too often focused on basic categories (i.e. administratively centralized, academically decentralized): relatively well-known, but ultimately too vague for decision-making. At the other extreme, many members had participated in peer-group attempts to gather more detailed attributes, but found these initiatives collapsed under their own weight due to the staff burden for both collecting and normalizing the data. Additionally, while previous surveys provided a snapshot of “what everyone else is doing,” past efforts left many COE members’ “ultimate questions” unanswered as to the true drivers of productivity and growth.

What information will we need to provide? Who should complete the survey? How long will it take?

Based on extensive member input, we developed a survey instrument that defines the most salient organizational attributes (portfolio mix, degree conferral authority, budget and reinvestment levels, etc.) along with critical measures of financial and mission contributions.

Our members have a wide range of organizational types and portfolios -- some have entirely ground-based programs, some are not online at all; some offer degrees, others are entirely non-credit (and everything in between). The survey is designed to examine continuing and professional education organizational models irrespective of your primary modality or program type. Members who reviewed drafts of this survey suggested that the senior-most COE executive in their unit (often holding the title of Dean, Associate/Assistant Provost, or Director) would be the most appropriate person to complete the survey, which takes approximately 20-40 minutes to complete.

Question designed to balance granularity and do-ability

The survey includes a number of questions asking COE leaders to describe themselves along a spectrum; we will then cross-tab self-described important output metrics (i.e., revenue, contribution to the core campus, and enrollment growth). We are hopeful that this approach will provide COE leaders with the rigorous comparative benchmarking data and insight into productivity drivers that members crave, without getting stuck in the quagmire of defining benchmarking terms (i.e., what counts as “academically decentralized”? how do we determine FTE?) that has been the downfall of so many previous efforts.

How to save and continue later or forward to staff

As our questions ask for ranges, rather than exact numbers, our beta-testers were able to complete the survey without needing to consult with any additional staff; the majority finished the survey in one sitting. However, in the case of unexpected interruptions, or if there are questions where staff consultation is needed, please scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the white link that says “Save and send to another staff member or continue later.” Follow the directions that appear after clicking on the link.

What types of analyses and insights will you provide?

Our goal is to provide COE leaders with objective information to make a fact-based case for the resources and organizational structures needed to achieve institutional goals. In addition to providing analyses and insights based on the aggregate data, COE Forum members can also request peer benchmarking data based on specific attributes.

Survey questions were informed not only by our work with COE leaders, but also by dozens of conversations with the EAB’s provost and chief business officer members. Many of our questions were designed to help facilitate productive conversations about COE organizational structure between the COE unit and the larger academic and business affairs teams.

Illustrative analyses from the COE Forum Organizational Benchmarking Initiative

Benefits of survey participation for both members and non-members

In order to obtain a larger data set, we are inviting non-members to complete the COE Organizational Benchmarking Initiative. Non-members will receive the institutional benchmarking report highlighting their institution’s responses against our aggregate data set. COE Forum members will receive in-depth analysis, personalized data cuts, exclusive opportunities for peer networking and discussion of “lessons learned” related to the results, and implementation support for organizational change initiatives.

What if I have questions while completing the survey?

Please email, and we will respond promptly. If you’d prefer to answer the survey questions "live" during a phone conversation with a COE Forum researcher, instead of completing the form, please let us know and we’d be happy to schedule some time.