Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Becoming an Analytics Driven Organization

It has been some time since our last post. I've been watching for items that warrant your attention. We have a few!! I will make them the subject of separate posts over the next several days.

I am greatly encouraged with the direction that we are heading as we strive to become an Analytics Driven Organization. We have the strong leadership of President Kington driving this topic, great interdepartmental teamwork, and a spirit on campus of "let's move ahead." Narren Brown (Office of Analytic Support and Institutional Research), Angela Voos (Office of the President), Brent Jaeger (ITS), and Jon Case-Minners (ITS) have been major players. There is some significant work underway in the divisions...thoughtful, insightful work.

We must evolve to become a more fact driven organization. We face increasing accountability regarding the effectiveness of our product (education) and the effectiveness of our expenditures. The world we interact with expects us to understand our business quantitatively and respond to their questions.  We find ourselves increasingly incapable of doing so.

The topic of how you become an Analytics Driven Organization is messy; it is amorphous; it requires teamwork. It is one of those topics that make you scratch your head and ask: "Where do we start?" Many organizations start this process, then stop as they lose focus, purpose, and will. 

The way to accomplish this is not to try to create an environment that can answer every question that anyone has ever thought of. “Build it and they will come” is not an effective approach. It also is not effective to install a data warehouse software package and hope that with the press of a few buttons all of our answers will be magically spit out. 

Rather, there is a cultural change that is needed in the institution, a kind of DNA alteration in how we think of information (data) and its use. We need to become an organization where data is an institutional asset, versus a personal asset or departmental asset. Everyone can view and use "our" data, given the proper security authorization. Our business processes change so that others may access information that we hold or have sourced. Data is named according to institutional standards, so that it can be found and understood by others. And, policies govern the creation and use of data.

We will evolve incrementally, thoughtfully. We will create results as we progress. As we move forward together, we will increase interdepartmental collaboration, sharing of data, and teamwork. 

Yesterday, in the Grinnell Senior Leadership meeting, a plan for accomplishing the above was unveiled. President Kington created a strong vision of where we are headed. Houston Dougharty, Mark Peltz, and Beth Halloran presented excellent, sample scenarios of how the lack of access to data and analytics impairs their operations. Main challenges were presented: naming conventions, data holes, quality/accuracy, completeness and sharing. Lastly, the specifics of our next steps were presented. 

Over the next couple of weeks the Senior Staff will discuss the top analytics oriented questions that will affect the institution. Each Senior Staff member will bring to the table their most pressing questions. They will be discussed and prioritized. We will then take the top 1 or 2 questions and create a project charter to answer each question. The project charter will define our approach to answering the question, deliverable dates, and who will be involved in the project team. Our goal is to achieve results. We will incrementally approach the answer to questions in this fashion. Over time, the repository of information that we build will grow. Our familiarity with the process will grow. Our cultural perspective will evolve. 

We are on an exciting path together. 

You may wish to check out the slides that were presented yesterday at:


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