What does it take to build an analytics-driven institution? Q&A with Becker College

What does it take to build an analytics-driven institution? Q&A with Becker College

By Cindy Barry on Monday, April 17, 2017


Patty Patria, Vice President for Information Technology at Becker College, has been overseeing implementation of a new analytics strategy and solution. The college has adopted Ellucian Analytics, powered by Ethos, focusing initially on student and enrollment data. I spoke with Patria about what it takes to build an analytics-driven institution.

You’ve been laying the groundwork for a next-gen analytics solution for the past couple of years. What’s the end game?

Patria: The end game is to have dynamic dashboards that display key data elements which drive critical business decisions. This tool must be easy to use for college executives.

We want our leaders to not only have better access to data but the ability to slice and dice the data in new ways, so they can elevate decision making and, ultimately, improve performance.

Becker is already a very data-driven institution. We review metrics at the cabinet level on a weekly basis and compare performance against previous years. But compiling data has always been a time-consuming, manual process, falling on one or two people who produce the same elements each week. So we’ve lacked the capability to look at deeper ‘What if?’ scenarios.

The institution is committed to implementing an automated, easy-to-use analytics system, which empowers decision makers to drill down, ask different questions of the data based on their role, and visualize information in compelling new ways.

What has to change from a technology standpoint?

Patria: Becker is a small private college with a lean IT staff. We don’t have data architects or dedicated database administrators. So we need any easy-to-use solution that is cloud based, with built-in visualization and drill-down capabilities that don’t require complex coding.

We also need a technology vendor that does the heavy lifting on the back end, so we can spend our time identifying the most critical data elements we need to improve business decisions.

When Ellucian began developing a new analytics solution for higher education, we chose to become a beta development partner. We’ve helped them refine the product and learned more about our own needs through the process. We’ll be rolling out Ellucian Analytics Student and Enrollment in the next couple of months.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?

Patria: Currently, we’re figuring out how to marry historical data and census with the new system so that we’ll have accurate year over year reporting. The new platform makes integrating data from various systems easier, but it will still take a lot of cleaning and massaging before historical data is 100% functional.

After we get that solved, our next priority will be integrating data from our learning management and retention systems, so that we have a full picture of student success at the individual and institutional levels. That’s when things will start to get exciting.

Is there a must-have ingredient for success?

Patria: Creating an analytics-driven institution is not just about technology. It’s about wholly redefining who uses data and how. And that requires leadership from the top down, which Becker has had from day one.

Our executive team has been leading the charge as we transition from a home grown solution to Ellucian Analytics.

The fact that this is an institutional commitment and not just an IT initiative will play a crucial role in our ability to drive bothadoption of analytics tools and an overall cultural shift toward data-informed decision making.

Learn about Ellucian Analytics, powered by Ethos.

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If you have additional strategies or experiences to share around building an analytics-driven culture, please leave a Comment below.

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About the Author

Cindy Barry

Cindy Barry

Senior Director, Product Management, Ellucian

Barry leads strategy and implementation for Ellucian Analytics, powered by Ethos.