Published on 2015/01/14
The EvoLLLution | Smooth Sailing Towards Data-Driven Decision-Making in Seven Steps
Many organizations are moving towards more analytical decision making, but achieving this goal can be challenging.

Are you sinking under too much data? Or maybe you’re just staying afloat? Either way, it’s time to get on board with analytics. Whether you’re analyzing your website, tracking enrollment and retention or assessing students, the amount of data we have available at our fingertips is at an all-time high. But that doesn’t prevent institutional leaders from resisting the turning of the tide. If you’re running into roadblocks, follow these seven steps to get allies in the fight for data-driven decision-making!

1. Start with an Audit

Data collection in an effort to make better informed decisions can feel daunting when you look out across the sea of data in front of you. You may be drowning in metrics, but don’t panic yet. Conduct an audit and assess the type of data available as well as the human resources responsible for working with it. Get a grasp of the data you have on hand, determine who is already pulling the data (or if they’re pulling it at all), and find the stakeholders responsible for analyzing it. You may be surprised by what’s already happening, or what’s not.

2. Determine Key Performance Indicators

Now that you know how much data you have available, throw most of it overboard. At the end of the day, there should be five to ten key performance indicators that truly reflect the success of your organization. Whether you’re looking at enrollment data, website analytics or faculty reports, there should be a critical few metrics highlighted in each report. Just because the data is there, doesn’t mean you need to spend time analyzing it.

3. Design a Relevant Dashboard

Speaking of reports, skip the spreadsheet. Give a splash of color, use visuals, and stick to the most relevant metrics when you develop your dashboard. No need to overwhelm your audience; make the distinction between what’s nice to know and what’s need to know. Customize your dashboards for individual units or teams so they see the data that’s relevant to them. Focus, analyze and make recommendations all in one dashboard.

4. Flip the Meeting

Too many meetings have people huddled around a screen scrolling through Excel spreadsheets and reports. Stop the madness! Flip the meeting, have attendees read the reports first, and use the meeting time to discuss an action plan. What is the data telling you? What are the insights? How does it impact the organization? Make a step-by-step recommendation plan based on the analysis of the data. Your colleagues should leave the meeting with a list of action items—all based on the data.

5. Be an Advocate and Identify Stakeholders

Don’t get left high and dry with the data. Recruit a crew to help advocate for the use of data throughout the organization. Show, don’t tell, how data-driven decision-making is beneficial and can help address pain points. Facing enrollment issues? What about retention? Identify a problem or a challenge someone in your organization is experiencing, then use data to solve their issue. They’ll get on board in no time.

6. Find the Right Tool

It’s hard to get underway when everyone is ready to set sail, but the technology is blocking your route to data-driven decision-making. If the tool is your biggest hurdle, invest in the right one. Easier said than done, but if you have proven the value of data and how it can impact the bottom line and help reduce costs in other areas, investing in the right tools is the only way forward.

7. Analytics in Action

Once you organize the right tools, resources and metrics, it’s anchors aweigh! For best results, reporting frequency should be consistent, all stakeholders should have access to the data, and there should be a smaller group actually analyzing it. If used in the right way, data can be a lifesaver for your organization as you can adjust your sails to improve the student experience, enrollment and engagement. Bon voyage!

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