Want to be more accountable? Change your thinking.
- 90 percent of administrators believe KPIs are important
- Three common higher ed KPIs are: enrollment, retention, graduation
- Analytics and business intelligence tools can make data accessible
College and university officials tend to bristle at the suggestion that they should “think like a business.” While it’s critical for institutions to be transparent in their operations and to use resources such as data analytics to drive change within and across the organization, higher education is not a traditional corporate enterprise. Institutions face unique challenges, many of which do not fit neatly on a balance sheet.
But that doesn’t mean institutions can’t benefit from private-sector innovations. Thanks to its penchant for investment, the business world is in many ways a proving ground for cost-conscious colleges and universities.
Take the evolution of business intelligence software, for example. Businesses have been using software applications to track key performance indicators (KPIs) — revenue, cash flow, product performance and more — for years. As our institutions of higher education consider how to increase accountability and boost student performance, similar processes are starting to take hold in academia. The results indicate that colleges think and act more like businesses than many administrators probably realize.
With support from Ellucian, the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) recently developed a survey to determine how our nation’s colleges and universities are applying business intelligence to evaluate institutional performance.
The survey discovered that some 90 percent of college administrators view KPIs as important to their institutions, though those KPIs are not the same as the KPIs used by businesses.
The three most common KPIs in higher education, according to the survey:
The responsibility to identify and track these KPIs falls heavily on the college’s or university’s office of institutional research, which is often asked to share its findings with campus leadership. Accrediting bodies, state and federal agencies and faculty also have an acute interest in this information.
Finding the Right Resource
As is true with any technology, not all business intelligence tools are created equal. Institutional research professionals who responded to the AIR survey identified several features to strongly consider when shopping for the ideal business intelligence tool. These features include the ability to access all required data across the institution, capture historical data and decisions, virtually engage with major departments across the organization, easily integrate with the institution’s existing enterprise resource planning tool and access built-in KPIs for tracking institutional performance.
When effectively tied together, institutional research professionals say these resources result in increased accountability across the institution. The numbers speak volumes. Eighty percent of higher-education institutions now track KPIs to better monitor enrollment; 73 percent use KPIs to track academic data. These institutions are systematically assembling massive reservoirs of information that administrators can use to determine what programs are working and what ones aren’t.
Anecdotal evidence still has a role in institutional accountability. Nothing demonstrates the power of education like a personal story of adversity and redemption. But having data at your fingertips to back up those stories, especially when the time comes to make the case for more support, is invaluable.
Want to learn more about the power of business intelligence in higher education? Read the full report.
The survey was conducted by Ellucian and the Association for Institutional Research among 542 responding members of the association between April 22 and May 6, 2014.