Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How Can An Institution Get Started on Action Analytics?

The best way to get started on Action Analytics is to just do it. Begin by addressing immediate needs – predictive modeling for retention, peer institution comparisons of productivity, and measures of institutional outcomes, for example. Conduct an assessment of the current organizational capacity/readiness for analytics (technology, processes, people, and culture), identify analytic needs and the gap betrween current and future. Then plan to fill the gaps and advance a campaign to build the institution’s analytics IQ and organizational capacity.

Many institutions leaders are awakened by “eureka!” moments to the fact that their organizational capacity for analytics is inadequate to current imperatives.

These moments of realization can be caused by an unfavorable report from regional accrediting teams, citing the institution’s lack of information on key elements of student success. Or watching an excellent institutional strategic plan unravel over three years of implementation because it wasn’t aligned at the institutional, college, department, and program levels, creating clear targets, measures, and responsibilities at all levels. Or finding that their institution is awash in data, but that the data are “hiding in plain sight,” unable to be combined with other data to create just the analyses needed to address an institutional problem or an external mandate.

Other moments of clarity can come when the institution has taken steps to address analytics – such as upgrading its ERP systems, purchasing new business intelligence tools, and/or developing predictive modeling for use in enrollment management – only to find that these steps are not enough. The new gold standard for analytics requires greater functionality, openness, and the capacity to extract and combine data from a far broader set of resources – administrative, academic, assessment, alignment, and external.

My colleagues and I recently completed an intensive two-day action analytics consultation at a metropolitan university in which we convened working groups from across the institution. We emerged with an assessment/projection of their current and future analytics capabilities and their readiness for Action Analytics, and established a recommended set of next steps, including producing quick wins to demonstrate the value of analytics. One of the Vice Presidents observed, “If we had done this process, several years, we would have assessed ourselves much more favorably, but our exemplary analytics were in particular silos. The bar for analytics and alignment has been raised dramatically and we must respond.”

Making serious advances in analytics is a multi-year initiative and a campaign, not a defined project like implementing a new analytic tool or an upgrade to institutional ERP. But such initiatives begin with first steps and the awareness that current approaches to analytics are inadequate to future expectations - including lifting out of recession.

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