Those of us preaching the power of data – on LinkedIn, on stage at keynotes, and at yearly budgeting meetings – prescribe data as the solution to all problems. However, we all know the execution of a powerful analytics strategy is often more challenging than anticipated. These challenges are especially severe in higher education, even before operating in the midst of a global pandemic and looming economic recession. Now, the hurdles seem larger than ever. Budgets are being significantly reduced or frozen, analytics teams are being defunded and paralyzed in the face of uncertainty. Yet, the greatest action universities can take today, one thing they can control, is to double down on data. Those who choose to do will evolve and emerge stronger. Those who don’t, may not survive.
Adoption is essential
Higher education has always been slow to adopt new technology, which I think is understandable. Universities are large and complex. They have many layers of leadership and often rely on external funding. It’s this complexity that makes data such a valuable asset for university decision making, and in the past decade, major strides have been made to introduce data & analytics tools across departments. The results of these changes, however, have been slow to surface.
One of the reasons that data investments are seeing less than stellar returns, is a product of the university’s organization and structure. Many groups operate independently from one another – especially when it comes to technology purchasing decisions – and this has resulted in a variety of siloed tools and technologies.
However, efforts have been made to create university-wide analytics councils and information management teams, but working backwards to resolve the existing incompatibility of different technologies is still difficult.
Now as we start to see valuable information being generated by many different departments, having an awareness or sight of key information that could be a saving grace to universities in crisis-mode is critical. However accessing, sharing, and acting on this information quickly is still next to impossible.
Everything in one place
Pomona College Branded as ‘ConnectTo’, Pomona’s advancement department used Theia and created a single, unified information portal bringing together IBM Cognos, Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, and SSRS. Last year, Pomona College won a National Silver CASE Award with ‘ConnectTo’. Now, users have one place to go to easily find reports, dashboards, documents, training materials and more.
This has resulted in greater efficiency and productivity across departments, an increase in adoption (more than quadrupled), a reduction in technology management costs, and has directly impacted decision making in regards to fundraising campaigns.
While actively investing in new technology projects during a period of uncertainty may seem risky, the greatest risk is in retreating to the status quo. In all areas of our society, both in business and our personal lives, we have experienced a steady increase in digital transformation.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not creating a new normal, it has simply accelerated the inevitable evolution of how we behave and interact. For many businesses who made digital investments early on, this period will mark an opportunity to accelerate past the competition. For others, it’s a wake-up call that the train is leaving the station, and immediate action is required. Unfortunately for the rest, a lack of action when times are good and when times are bad, will result in devastating consequences.