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It's Your (Data) Decision

10 misconceptions about business intelligence

Elias EldayrieInformation Technology Services Director Matt Gargano has just launched a major initiative to bring business intelligence (BI) and a culture of data-driven decision-making to Highland Community College (IL). His twin goals of delivering online services and re-engineering business processes for the college have given him both close-up and “big picture” views of data warehousing and information access; he knows what it means to introduce a new BI solution to higher ed decision-makers. During the past five years, Gargano has spearheaded Highland’s SunGard SCT BI effort, working with the institution's key decision-makers and co-chairing two critical Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) re-accreditation committees: Information Access and Data-Driven Decision- Making, and Measuring Effectiveness. He's immersed himself in BI processes and has found that there are several false assumptions that could easily derail an otherwise powerful effort. For CT, he reveals the “"Top 10" misconceptions about BI…

Want to be considered for Campus Technology’s Top 10? Send your countdown and a brief background/bio summary to [email protected]


Misconception: Data drives decisions.

  • Data is: just data.
  • It is access and analysis that make “data-driven” decision-making work.

Misconception: Numbers don’t lie.

  • Watch out! Bad data drives bad decisions.
  • Data must be timely, consistent, and accurate, to lead to good decisions.

Misconception: I have all the information I need.

  • If you are looking at sil'ed data, chances are you don’t have the full story.
  • Departmental decisions sometimes conflict with institutional goals and missions, for lack of institutional data and context.


Misconception: The information I need d'esn’t exist, right?

  • No; most likely, it’s there. Enterprise data warehouses can provide relevant, cross-institutional information for the users who need it.
  • Access to enterprise data helps ensure consistent information for your institution’s decision-makers. Promote your data warehouse!

Misconception: IT owns the data.

  • IT is the steward entrusted with the systems that capture and store data.
  • Business users own and utilize the information (and analysis) that the data provides, to make their decisions.

Misconception: You need to be a statistician to analyze data.

  • Business intelligence (BI) solutions can provide business users the information they need in a way that they can understand it.
  • Users can set parameters to get data when and how they need it.

Misconception: All business intelligence solutions are about the same.

  • Not true; and that’s especially important to know if you are in higher education.
  • Higher ed is unique and requires solutions developed to address its particular needs.
  • BI solutions must use industry-specific data models, data definitions, and business rules.

Misconception: It takes too long to implement data warehouse solutions, leaving us unclear about the benefits.

  • Actually, BI solutions with pre-built data warehouses, data models, and extraction capabilities can provide a real head start.
  • Of course, the sooner the rollout, the sooner the benefit.

Misconception: BI solutions cost too much for my institution.

  • Think more broadly! The cost of bad decisions as they relate to accountability, competitiveness, and service to students may be the greater institutional expense.
  • Consider one of the deadliest factors: the hidden cost of lost opportunities for revenue or services that were not identified.

Participate in your user community.

  • Look around—the higher education environment is changing.
  • Today, relying on experience alone probably means you have incomplete information.
  • Analyzing data for trends and decision support provides a competitive advantage...and don’t think you won’t be needing that!
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