Data is everywhere,and getting to and managing that information is vital for accurate reporting, analysis and proactive decision making. This brings us to Best Practice # 3: Identify and Integrate Authoritative, Trusted Data Sources. As you might remember, these tips all come from my interviews with SAS education customers.
From Best Practice # 2 you should already now know what metrics and reports your stakeholders need. Now it is time to assess the data sources available to help you meet these needs. Most likely, data will be scattered across fragmented systems in different departments, schools and agencies, and overlap or have gaps and inconsistencies. So you’ll need to carefully determine the best sources to integrate within your data warehouse. Expect some heated debates, as data owners will have reasons why their data should be declared the official data. This is where Best Practice # 1 will come in handy. The executive sponsor should be able to intervene in these conversations and keep the project moving forward.
To ensure that data is interpreted the same way by all stakeholders, develop data definitions as part of a data dictionary. For example, student names, gender, ethnicity and GPAs should be defined, understood and stored one way by all stakeholders. This will ultimately give you “one version of the truth” for which to do all the analysis and reporting.
To ensure data consistency and quality over time, it is also important to establish a governance process for data validation and cleansing before it’s loaded into the data warehouse. Data governance encompasses the people, processes and technology required to create a consistent enterprise view of an organization’s data. It formalizes the process of managing information across an organization through business processes and policies designed to ensure that data is handled in a prescribed fashion, with human intervention handled by trained data stewards. By concentrating on the health of the data, institutions can create better data to support their core strategies and initiatives. A governance process also needs to account for the fact that data is always in flux and may change unexpectedly.
Next comes the tricky part, as we will learn with the subsequent tip. Once you have asked your stakeholders their interests and have access to all the data, they will all be eagerly awaiting information and reports. So, you have to "manage expectations" so stakeholders have a clear understanding of what will be delivered when. So stay tuned for that in an upcoming post. If you are excited about learning all the tips, read the full white paper now: 10 Tips from SAS Education customers.