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The State of BI, Data, and Analytics in Higher Education

Compared to those in other industries responding to Dresner Advisory Services market surveys, Higher Education organizations report a lower level of maturity in BI, data, and analytics. Since Higher Education organizations tend to have lower overall levels of IT maturity, lower levels of sophistication and maturity for their BI, data, and analytics solutions comes as no surprise. But as this industry must address digital transformation and thereby increase technology use and consumption (necessitated by remote-learning needs and requirements due to COVID-19), we expect future growth here. 

Higher Education organizations report lower overall success with their BI initiatives, lower rates of data literacy, and a lower level of data standardization than other industries. BI penetration in Higher Education lags other industries, but respondents indicate substantial increases in the next few years. Plans for increased presence of chief data officers (CDOs), chief analytics officers (CAOs), or both indicate potential sources of BI leadership that our research shows fuels greater BI adoption and success. 

Collection of the data used in this analysis began before the impact of COVID-19 and continued during this pandemic’s impacts on economies and industries. Higher Education is front and center in this “new reality,” as in-person education shifted almost overnight to distance learning and closed campuses. As reported in our recent research, “New Findings on How COVID-19 Impacts Businesses, Budgets, and Projects,” Higher Education organizations, like those in other industries, see a shift to work-at-home environments, budget cuts and delays, and impacted projects. 

Executive Summary

1. Higher Education organizations report being less successful than their peers in other industries with BI solutions. Their levels of data-driven decision-making lags other industries and shows potential for improvement.

2. BI budgets in Higher Education organizations tend to be flat and not increase, with the largest portion of planned spending allocated to internal headcount.

3. Although Higher Education organizations report lower levels of data literacy, they show higher rates of building or planning data-literacy programs.

4. Higher Education organizations tend to score higher on the Dresner Advisory Services Hyper-Decisive™ Maturity Model, including in the dimensions of Transparency and Accountability, Alignment with Mission, and Relationships, Agreements, Politics, Conflict Resolution.

5. Although many Higher Education organizations lack formal BI, data, and analytics leadership, those that have it in place consider it effective. 

6. The rate of BI penetration in Higher Education organizations lags other industries. However, we expect BI penetration in Higher Education organizations to increase and soon exceed the rates of other industries. 

7. The top three BI business drivers in Higher Education (driving better decision-making, operational efficiency, and driving growth in revenues) are not aligned well with how Higher Education organizations emphasize application of BI solutions (for enhancing customer service and compliance/risk management).

8. Compared to other industries, Higher Education organizations show a higher propensity for IT, Strategic Planning, R&D (curriculum-development related), BI Competency Centers/Centers of Excellence and HR to drive their BI initiatives. 

9. Compared to other industries, executive and middle management functions in Higher Education organizations consume more information.

10. The technology priorities for Higher Education organizations support both BI core competencies and BI innovations, with reporting, dashboards, and data integration topping the list.

11. The distribution and rates of reported BI sourcing strategies barely differ between Higher Education organizations and all other organizations.

12. The extensive presence of ERP “sandboxes”—supported by generous educational discounts and programs—explains the higher levels of usage of ERP solutions in Higher Education, compared to other industries.


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