On the heels of a well-attended Educause event1 comes the publication of the 2024 Educause Top 10 list.2 The list is defined as contributions that technology, data and the workforce will make to advance higher education’s resilience across mission, operational and financial dimensions. This year’s top 10 reinforces themes discussed at their annual conference in Chicago. Throughout this prioritized top 10 list, and from my personal conference observations, the value of data management to achieve educational excellence, resilience and continued relevance is dominant.
Recognizing that higher education’s future is increasingly challenging to navigate, thriving institutions will successfully adapt to and overcome rapidly changing norms. Those that fail to change face uncertain solvency. Investments are needed in the short term across all aspects of education. Putting emphasis on changing culture through people-focused leadership and establishing modern business processes are important. Yet, technology investments serve as the glue that turn these ideas into action — and at scale.
At the core of the technology investment is the capability to harness institutional data. Institutional data allows higher education to better understand themselves, their students and their faculty. These insights in turn provide a fertile environment to make better decisions impacting student recruitment, retention and services. Data insights also drive digital experiences that campus-wide constituents demand today.
The conference topics centered around data and artificial intelligence (AI). Discussions tended to focus on AI’s demonstrated ability to streamline mundane tasks, increase efficiencies and drive analytics. These conversations eventually led to the value of feeding trusted data into those newer models and tools as the only path to successful outcomes. I heard it at the conference: AI needs trusted and complete data. Without robust data management capabilities, organizations are trapped in the garbage-in, garbage-out effect.
Educause Top 10 and Data Management
Assessing each of the Top 10 through a data management lens — keeping in mind the value of clean, trusted data — provides insightful results and the importance of a strong enterprise-level data management program.
#1. Cybersecurity as a Core Competency: Balancing cost and risk
- A layered approach to cybersecurity must address data security and protection. This includes having a continuously updated inventory of institutional data. There must also be an established set of automated rules to enforce sensitive data policy compliance, all while allowing consistent data democratization for business processes.
- Higher education should consider a zero-trust architecture approach to improving their cybersecurity posture. Data protection is a key pillar of this approach and is addressed in detail in our brochure, Enable Zero Trust with a Data Foundation.
#2. Driving to Better Decisions: Improving data quality and governance
- Expert panelists at the Informatica-led conference session on data-based decision-making highlighted the importance of data quality and governance. Speakers shared details on how these capabilities can aid in reducing risks associated with confirmation bias and other decision traps.
- Ensuring data quality includes profiling your data to uncover and understand its anomalies and hidden relationships — regardless of the complexity of the data itself or of the relationships between data sources. Stakeholders can be empowered to participate in data quality processes with scorecards and deploy reusable data quality rules across all applications.
- Learn more in our Transforming Higher Education with High-Quality Data brochure.
#3. The Enrollment Crisis: Harnessing data to empower decision-makers
- Data-driven insights to aid in recruiting and retaining students is essential given declining enrollment.
- Leveraging predictive and prescriptive analytics for solving enrollment and retention issues is wholly dependent on the trustworthiness and completeness of the data fed to the analytic platforms.
- Learn more about establishing a holistic 360-degree view of student information. Gain the necessary student lifecycle insights to address enrollment and retention challenges in our Transforming Higher Education with AI and Analytics white paper.
#4. Diving Deep into Data: Leveraging analytics for actionable insights to improve learning and student success
- Assessing student achievement and satisfaction depends on automated capabilities. These AI-driven solutions help identify, profile and integrate available data across the multiple systems, applications and associated databases that house that data.
- Intelligent data management – handling data through AI-enabled microservices — automates manual tasks, whether analysis or compliance-related, to extract timely value from data.
- Discover how the Informatica Claire AI engine can help you automate data governance.
#5. Administrative Cost Reduction: Streamlining processes, data and technologies
- Campus administrative effectiveness and efficiencies begin with automating data management across departments, schools and colleges to reduce manual data wrangling and manipulation.
- Providing modern data management tools to reduce overhead costs associated with financial processes, etc., allows data consumers to spend 80% of their time on using the data. This is in contrast to spending 80% of their time trying to find, collect and clean the data.
- Financially focused leaders can learn more with cloud-based finance data management.
#6. Meeting Students Where They Are: Providing universal access to institutional services
- Students demand the same digital experience from their school that they have with commercial industries; this is achievable when student data is mastered across all sources — recruitment, enrollment, extracurricular activities, tuition/finance, scholarships, etc.
- Creating a golden record of a student with existing data provides a one-stop source to ensure accurate and timely information is available. When transacting with the school, this single source is essential to creating fair and equitable student services provisioning.
#7. Hiring Resilience: Recruiting and retaining IT talent under adverse circumstances
- Bottom line upfront: Demonstrating a commitment to investment in modernizing campus technology attracts the talent necessary to drive modernization. Top IT specialists don’t want to work with legacy technology.
- Manage and retain that top talent with a master view of them to ensure they remain challenged, trained, educated and incentivized throughout their career lifecycle.
#8. Financial Keys to the Future: Using technology and data to help make tough choices
- Build more residence halls? Construct a new brick and mortar department? Invest in technology to automate campus administration? Reduce or add majors and/or curriculums? Reduce or increase staff and faculty to meet demand? All can be difficult decisions made more difficult by incomplete and inaccurate data.
- Addressed largely in #2 above, a practical decision-making example based on data was provided by Dr. Vanessa Hammler Kenon, University of Texas – San Antonio, during the conference.
#9. Balancing Budgets: Taking control of IT cost and vendor management
- Reduce IT cost significantly by reducing the number of software vendors providing data management capabilities. Consider a comprehensive, cloud microservice and consumption-based end-to-end platform for all your data needs. Reduce vendor and license management and ensure out of the box integration while still maintaining data control.
- Standardize and automate operational processes and workflows. Orchestrate supplier onboarding, reducing manual and redundant workloads. Create a trusted view of supplier relations and hierarchies to understand the supplier network. Manage virtually all these aspects with a Supplier 360 approach for better supply chain agility, efficiency and transparency.
#10. Adapting to the Future: Cultivating institutional agility
- As higher education leaders adapt more rapidly to change, crises and opportunities they must also build a data-driven and data-literate organization to create a resilient enterprise. Evolving beyond responding to crises and events, leaders can leverage evidence for better decision making and advanced analytics — such as those associated with predictive and prescriptive analytics.
- Since data management technology serves as a driver of, and solution to, change, leaders must ensure they have the position of chief data officer established with the requisite authority and resources to enable that change across the administration.
To learn more, read our thought piece and solutions recommendation, “Modernizing Higher Education for Connected Campus Experiences,” and check out our higher education website for additional resources.