For years, experts have warned business leaders to prepare for the coming digital disruption. But realizing the potential of new digital technologies requires businesses to overhaul how they manage data, with many finding it easier to push tricky data questions into the future.
Fast-forward to 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic upended the entire higher education business model. As we witnessed across industries, the most resilient businesses are those with a strong handle on their data, using real-time information to make strategic decisions.
Now many post-secondary schools are fast-tracking the digital transformation plans that they initially kicked down the road. But before jumping into a new student information system, it’s wise to first improve your school’s data practices, so everything is in place for transformation success.
The Benefits of Establishing a Single Source of Truth
To improve data quality and visibility, many higher education systems are turning to integrated student information systems over best-of-breed solutions. An integrated system creates a “single source of truth,” which provides only one access point to all of an organization’s knowledge. This means that everyone has access to the same information in one centralized location.
Additionally, a single source of truth will utilize the system’s best functions, like automated workflows, to decrease manual tasks and free teams to focus on more strategic initiatives.
Why Best-of-Breed Solutions Fall Short
Finding student data or pulling reports often means time-consuming manual searches across different platforms, with results often undermined by outdated database records or human errors. Integrated student information systems now use hundreds of data points from admissions, registration, billing and financial aid to bring together a complete picture of the entire student lifecycle.
The overall result is that administrators and executives are all looking at the same data to make decisions that impact:
- Enrollment and admissions
- Government aid, such as Title IV financial aid
- Faculty and staffing
- Recruitment and marketing
A best-of-breed approach requires staff to pull data from multiple different systems, which creates data silos and keeps stakeholders from quickly accessing important information.
Why Accurate Management of Student Data is So Critical
In many cases, untrained staff underestimate the complexity that underlies seemingly basic information like addresses, contact information, financial details and documentation.
Often, inaccurate and outdated records are held across multiple departments in various databases, with no ownership of the data or the maintenance process. This results in flawed reporting, bad analytics and poor decision-making.
Examples of Bad Data Management
Even innocent errors can lead to big headaches. Consider the following:
- Manual data entry should be minimized. For example misspelling a prospect or student’s name creates duplicate entries, makes it difficult to assess the full lifecycle or ROI of a marketing campaign. At best, fixing this mistake requires extra work to consolidate the information. Even worse, your school’s leadership can make critical business decisions based on incorrect information – all because of a wrong keystroke.
- Lack of coordination around data leads to missed opportunities. If marketing generates a hot lead on a prospect, but the system fails to flag the proper follow-up, by the time it’s realized the prospect could receive an offer from another school.
How a Single Source of Truth Future-Proofs Student Data Management
Properly managing your student data is an ongoing process. As schools come to view their data as a core business asset, your leadership team and other departments – especially those tasked with managing Title IV financial aid – will be able to work more efficiently on issues like regulatory compliance. Here’s what else can be gained from an integrated student information system:
- Helps employees do their jobs better and faster. Cloud-based technology reduces inefficiencies and provides painless integration, user-friendly interfaces and increased workflow especially for career, technical, vocational or smaller schools.
- Boost data accuracy. With a reliable implementation partner, you can instill a culture of data awareness and openness to innovation.
- Improve collaboration with students, faculty and staff. To be truly effective, a student information system should increase the efficiency in managing the student lifecycle in all stages — from prospect to enrollment to career placement and beyond.
At the end of the day, a high-quality student information system must simplify the increasingly complicated admissions process. The submission, review, approval and management of applications should be in one easy-to-use tool where team members never have to search their inbox or hard drive for the latest information or keep an Excel spreadsheet to manage their prospects and leads.
A student information system, powered by analytics and reporting engines, represents a significant opportunity to increase productivity, achieve better compliance, reduce time to enrollment and improve accuracy in reporting.
Ready to see how Campus Cafe’s integrated student information system can improve your school’s data management practices? Contact us today for a free demo.