Colleges grapple with how to organize data departments

An Educause poll shows institutions are taking both centralized and decentralized approaches to organizing data staff.
Photograph of hands working with graphs and pieces of paper.
(Daenin Arnee / Getty Images)

Just 25% of respondents to a recent Educause poll said their institution’s organization of data functions was ideal for meeting data and analytics needs.

The survey, published Monday, indicates many institutions are still figuring out how best to organize staff working on institutional research, business intelligence, analytics, data governance or institutional effectiveness.

Institutional approaches to organizing data staff vary greatly, the survey said. While a majority of institutions have centralized structures for staff working on institutional research, data governance or institutional effectiveness, most institutions’ analytics staff are decentralized.

A lack of collaboration between staff working with data was highlighted as a concern in the survey, with only 16% of respondents reporting that data staff and offices operate collaboratively and cohesively. A majority of the 177 survey respondents indicated that institutions should favor a centralized approach to avoid data silos.


“We’ve been data rich but information and insight poor,” said one anonymous survey respondent quoted in the report. “Bringing the groups together as a centralized service organization will (hopefully) provide us with the ability to develop analytics and metrics that cut across institutional units.”

Thirty-seven percent of respondents said their institution had recently restructured one or more of its data functions, and 28% said their institution was considering making a change in the near future.

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