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Empowering Data-Driven Decision-Making: Establishing an Information Management Team at a Community College

With colleges and universities having access to more data than ever, their proper use, management and implementation require a dedicated data team.

The body of knowledge on team-building is extensive, and it spans various fields, philosophies and practices. Successful teams are built on and sustained by people committed to realizing the mission and aims of their institution or endeavor.

For Richard J. Daley College’s (Daley) journey to develop a highly functional and cohesive information management, research, planning and strategy team (data team), we were guided by Greenleaf’s servant leadership (Greenleaf 1997) and National Cash Register’s continuous improvement (Singh 2013) philosophies. Over a five-year period centered around Daley College’s mission to “ … empower our diverse community to achieve their goals … in a supportive, inclusive, and equitable environment…” the president, the president’s executive council (executive-level leadership), Institutional Research and Practice Committee (IRPC), and faculty and staff dedicated their time, talents and expertise to develop the college’s office of information management, research, planning and strategy team.

Throughout the journey, the overarching charge of the data team has been to move the college toward functioning through data information and data engagement for data-driven decisions. As Daley College moved into years four and five of development and implementation, the campus leadership, framed by servant leadership and continuous improvement philosophies, reimagined the core areas: people with the time, talents and expertise to champion innovative approaches toward engaging multidisciplinary teams in information management, research, planning and strategy. Creating the data team and moving toward data-driven decisions were instrumental in the college’s reaccreditation and its strategic, enrollment management and equity-planning processes through to implementation.

Daley College’s leadership team moved by positioning it as necessary to develop and implement a data team that leverages the capital and experiences of people across campus who could apply multiple frameworks from the lens of varying professional experiences, generational perspectives and experience with data engagement. Thus, leadership created a multidiscipline and interdisciplinary team. Collectively, the team represents multiple areas of the college—administrators, faculty, staff, students, and community and industry—and provides over 200 years of experience to the college’s research and planning efforts.

The current profile of Daley College’s data team builds on the deep knowledge, expertise and perspective that each team member brings to actualizing the college’s mission. Specifically, the office leverages key stakeholders’ institutional resources and expertise to foster a culture of inquiry and evidence that informs data-driven decision-making, drives innovation and ensures institutional excellence. Current data team members include individuals in the following roles: president, vice president of academic and student affairs, director of research and planning, data strategist, president’s executive council (i.e., deans and directors of units, and the Institutional Research and Practice Committee). In committing their time, talents, and expertise to Daley College’s data team, the college is well positioned to assess, design, implement, evaluate and adjust innovative education and programming in a supportive, inclusive and equitable environment that promotes and sustains lifelong learning.


Creating a data team at a college serves several important purposes with the following overarching goal.

Facilitating data-driven decision-making: A data team can tabulate, describe and analyze data to provide insights that inform strategic decisions in areas like student enrollment and performance, curriculum development, resource allocation and student support services.

Based on this aim, the data team’s praxes are aligned with the following frames:

Focus on Student Success by Improving Student Outcomes

By prioritizing data on student performance and engagement, we can identify students who may benefit from enhanced personalized academic advising, tutoring programs, wellness or additional resources.

Efficient and Effective Operations

Efficient and effective data management practices for operations could be implemented to improve administrative processes, thus enabling staff and faculty to focus on saving and redirecting time and efforts for value-added performance. Through efficient and effective operations, the college’s resources—people, facilities, student services and technology—would be optimized.

Accountability and Transparency

The data team will ensure that data used for reporting are accurate, valid and reliable, including sound and standard management and statistical practices, and presented for impact for decision-making.

Overall, investing in developing a data team can be a crucial driver supporting colleges in achieving their goals of student success, institutional effectiveness and continuous improvement.


Here are steps Daley College followed to create an information management, research, planning and strategy team:

State the Charge and Identify Goals and Objectives

Either one leader or a collaborative group can be responsible for stating the charge and identifying the goals and objectives. A clear charge and defined goals help focus the team on critical objectives such as improving student outcomes, enhancing operational efficiency and effectiveness, ensuring compliance with regulations and supporting strategic decision-making.

Buy-In for Leadership and Stakeholders

We chose to lead the data team at the executive level of the college, namely the president followed by the leadership team, ensuring the work aligns with the college’s mission and strategic priorities. Irrespective of where the data team is housed and operates, securing support and buy-in from all levels of the college is paramount. Collaboration and key stakeholder involvement across the college (i.e., academic departments, administrative offices and student support services) through committee service leads to broadly identifying data needs and proposed solutions.

Establish a Team and Define Team Roles and Responsibilities

It is important for key data team members to have expertise in data management, statistical analysis and related fields. For these core team members as well as other committee members, defined roles and responsibilities ensure positive impactful collaboration.

Provide Training and Professional Development

For data team members and all college community members, intentionally investing in enhanced awareness of the importance of data, use and collection, and best practices in data management and statistical analysis is beneficial as well as a vehicle to create college buy-in and transparency in decision-making.

Establish Data Governance and Infrastructure Framework

Develop a framework to ensure data are managed securely, ethically and in compliance with applicable regulations (e.g., Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), policies and procedures for accessing, managing, analyzing, evaluating and reporting. It must consider the necessary technological infrastructure.

Monitor and Evaluate Performance

The performance and impact of the data team, including practices, policies and operations afford the opportunity for adjustments and improvements as needed.

Drive a Data-Informed Culture

Through the president and data team’s leadership, a culture of data-informed decision-making, effective program design and assessment across the college will be fostered, grown and broadened for positive impact

By following these steps, colleges can establish a data team that effectively leverages data to support their mission and goals.


As colleges continue to strengthen academic and service programs for expanded impact, it is imperative that offerings be of sound academic quality, address student development needs and reflect demands of industry and the community. To this end, a data team is instrumental.