Education Technology

A Collaborative IT-IR Model to Enhance Data-Informed Decision Making

I attended this session because I knew it would include a lot of useful and practical information, and the presenters are really good at what they do 🙂 As I type this, people are filtering into the session…it doesn’t look like it’ll be a standing room only session, but it will be well-attended. The speakers moved through their materials quickly, and conversation was pretty lively…any errors or omissions are entirely my own!


  • Timothy Chester, VP for IT, University of Georgia
  • Jonathan Gagliardi, Associate Director, American Council on Education (ACE)
  • Gina Johnson, Assistant Executive Director for Partnerships & Membership, Association for Institutional Research (AIR)

Timothy Chester, Jonathan Gagliardi, and Gina Johnson







Gina framed the session from the perspective of collaborations between IT and IR departments and breaking down silos between different units. She also challenged us to stick around and not bolt for the door, because the session will include collaborating with neighbors 😉 She then talked a bit about collaborations between AIR and EDUCAUSE.


  • Areas for collaboration
  • Tools for developing collaboration
  • Discussion & Q&A
  • Final Thoughts

The higher ed community needs to get on the same page about using data effectively! An American College Presidents and AACRAO/ACE study showed that:

  • Very few college presidents identified the use of IR/evidence as an area of future importance
  • People from the same campus held different perspectives on data access, quality, and future use
  • Yet, areas considered to be important all require a strong research and evidence base

Jonathan Gagliardi on his role & perspectives about using data

Higher ed in the US is facing unprecedented challenges to improve access and attainment despite stagnant or diminished funding. We can use data to uncover and fix structural issues we have.

  • Things are getting more expensive, and students are footing more of the bill.
  • Not a lot of huge gains in graduation rates (based on Federal numbers)

These forces have eroded the public confidence in higher education.

Many campuses face challenges related to data use: data quality, accessibility, accuracy; data use not as widespread as it should be; data are siloed; lack of resources for training and professional development; resource limitations.

Spectrum of analytics

The following aspects of the spectrum of analytics should be done continuously and collaboratively:

Descriptive > Diagnostic > Real Time > Predictive > Prescriptive

Data need to be timely, accurate, integrated, and relevant regardless of the nature of the analytics being used. One of these dimensions may be prioritized over the other, depending on the insight needed.

“Analytics is a translation function”

Maturation of analytics functions requires an elevated cross-divisional model that takes into consideration many important factors:

  • Culture & politics
  • Technical infrastructure
  • Resources
  • The IR/IT nexus

We need a strong relationship with IT to make all this happen! IR and IT should strategically collaborate.

Timothy Chester on Areas of Collaboration

  • 30% is technical, 70% is about people!
  • IT vs. IR legacy silos and structures need to go

What do we need to do when we get a seat at the table?

From Build to Buy to Buy AND Build

IT focus historically (1960s – 1980s) was to buy and build systems, but over time those systems were highly layered. Later, (1990s – 2010s) our focus was to buy systems from vendors that we’d have to “bolt on to.” Latest phase (2010s – present) is composing systems, i.e. we buy pieces that we need from vendors and then spend time integrating them. IT and IR are in a great place now to coordinate.

Business Process Management: Discover, Document, Improve, Implement. BPM depends on using data effectively. Bringing units together and reducing redundancy will help your internal processes.

Data governance is a big piece of the puzzle as well. Discover > Define > Apply > Measure & Monitor. This process is an ongoing effort.

Having a seat at the table is having an opportunity to influence decision-making. Trust, credibility, respect and personal relationships are more important than hierarchical influence!

The Credibility Cycle

Rinse & repeat the following:

  1. Initial Credibility
  2. Resources & Expectations
  3. Outcomes
  4. Results

Get poor results, then you get into

  1. Reduced Credibility
  2. Cycle of Overcommitment & Underperformance
  3. Diminished Authority

The more and better you are at “blocking and tackling,” the more credible you’re going to be with building effective relationships and being successful.

The Best Teams are Diverse Teams

Every good team needs people who are good at the following:

  • Generate ideas
  • Promote ideas
  • Fulfill ideas
  • Validate ideas

IT/IR are becoming business organizations…we need to grow beyond just technical expertise and into a strategic advocate for change. Your job is more than to just drop data off at the table, you need to provide candid advice on the issues of the day. Senior leaders want advocacy based on analysis.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Using the duties & functions of IR to orient yourself to the focus of IR – What are some areas of crossover in work between iT and IR (Common KSAs)
  2. What are some areas of clear delineation between the work of IT and IR (unique KSAs)?

The session broke up into groups to discuss these questions and then shared with the larger group.

By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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