AUA 2014 Conference Business Intelligence Workshop

This week I, along with my colleagues Jonathan Waller, Teresa Tocewicz and Adam Hiles delivered a workshop on Business Intelligence in Higher Education. We offered to write up the findings for delegates and this is it….

Thirty Five delegates from institutions and agencies associated with further and higher education were asked to consider three questions and to write responses (as many as they wish) from their individual perspectives on ‘Post-It Notes’. These Notes were then stuck to the relevant section of the large piece of flipchart paper provided to each table and on which they had previously been asked to draw a giant ‘H’.


Delegates were asked to consider each of these questions in the order shown below and were given 10 minutes for each one:

How effective BI currently helps you in your role, or How you believe it could and should? (“the desired state”)
What organisational, or other, factors are preventing your institutions from delivering the kind of benefits previously surfaced? (“the barriers”)
What needs to happen within your institution to overcome the issues that are holding you back and preventing you from achieving the successful vision of BI you have articulated? (“ideas generation”)

Following completion of the 3rd ‘ideas generation’ exercise. Each delegate was given three ‘sticky dots’ and given five minutes to read all the ideas that had been suggested by other members of their group and to ‘vote’ for the one, or ones, which they felt had the most merit. All three votes/dots could be allocated to one idea, or spread around multiple ideas, based on their own strength of feeling for a particular idea(s).


Resources from Jisc to help with BI when back in the office

Slides from the Session

Keeping in touch
Subscribe to the Jisc / HESA BI Project Jiscmail list to receive updates from the team. We’ll set up a blog site soon and announce it there

The rest of this document is a transcription of each table’s Post it Notes and votes. As promised, this is now available to those who took part and other interested parties as a record of the discussions and views of those present and will also be considered by Jisc and HESA as part of the preparations for the new BI National Shared Service that is currently being planned.


Table 1

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Share milestones through dashboards
Define base data 
Very powerful systems
Fire people up to make decisions
Accurate data
Informed decision making
Clear limitations
 User training
Multiple systems
Data ownership
No end user consultation
Time and resources
Part of staff role?
Clear objectives
Engagement from all levels
Lead from executive

Table 2

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Provide data that academics recognise and trust
Time saving in long run
GIves consistent info and doesn;t make assumptions about what you need
Accurate data that can be manipulated to repurpose
Effectively displays results, simpl dashboards
Properly resourced planning team
Staff training
Easy to access and use the basics
For everyone – staff, students, other stakeholders
Timeliness of information

Inconsistent interpretation
Cost and resource issues
Intelligence to understand systems and results
Data dispersed in different systems
Politics of access to certain data
Cost of a reporting tool
Lack of flexibility
Understanding managers
Lack of commitment 
Commitment from senior managers and resources
Support and money for capacity and development
Collaborative working across whole organisation
Technical ability to convert existing data into accessible format by a central system

Table 3

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Team to provide and clean and monitor data
Access to research reports
Access to performance data
Quickly find detailed complex information
Mapping research income and student numbers year on year
Benchmarking against competitor university departments
Understanding departmental performance against plans
Corporate student satisfaction reports (KIS and NSS)

Not knowing what data is available to use or where to get it from
Lack of consultation with end users
Different databases produce different statistics
Too much time spent in populating reports
Glacial decision making processes
Lack of access to staff members, often restricted to senior managers
Planning department slow to produce information
Multiple dashboards unconnected
Accuracy of data
Lack of communication
Access to planning tools on several levels; senior management, faculty, school, department
Willingness to change and move forward
Planners to communicate what data is available and from where
Guidance as to which statistics should be monitored
Integrated systems
Better training
Better knowledge of existing systems and capabilities 

Table 4

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Student performance identifying areas for development
Student demographics
User friendly to all staff
Staff information
Visualisation of data
Quick retrieval
Organise data / decisions made
Consistency across the organisation
Partnership making
Well funded
One click results
Drill downable
Easy access
Identifes student performance and programme, school and institutional level and identify trends

System restrictions
Lack of systems knowledge
Handling non digitised information
Definition of progression and retention
Inconsistency between programmes
Departments competing against each other
Too many systems not connecting

Management support
IT support
One vision of data needs
redesign of infrastructure
Sharing of knowledge
Data quality management
Consistency of definitions
Real time simple reporting 

Table 5

 The desired state  The barriers  Ideas generation
Greater initial cost outline diminishing as efficiencies occur
One repository for data vs multiple spreadsheets
Helps to improve processes – helps to improve planning / designing
Gives only relevant information i.e. no extras
Customisable – access all fields for user generated reporting
Make decisions on which grant giving bodies to approach for research income
Surfaces data to help with wider business planning
More scope for visualisation
How close are we to reaching targets
Live data
Make decisions on which industry sectors to approach for collaborations
Insight into tracking of deliverables
Mapping student conversion rates from enquiries to registrations
Understanding distinction between data at he micro (departmental) level and macro (institutional)
Benchmarks against previous years

Individuals control on data note easily relinquished
Cost of data systems
Lack of connection between planners / analysts and rest of institution
Time delay in data
People don;t understand how important BI is to their role
Inaccurate and old data
Not sure who to approach for the relevant data
Time lag on data
No synergy between existing data systems
Poor interpretation of data, not understanding the business
No support for collecting and analysing data

Better relationships between planners and users of data
Consult the end users not assume what is needed
Thorough training
Sharing of data and collaboration across stye sector
Exploring how BI is related to wider horizon scanning by Jisc
Central data warehouse 

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