Higher Education is awash with data, and few people are confident that they’re getting the most out of it. When we recently surveyed the industry with the question “I believe I’m putting the data my team gathers to its best use,” 93% of the nearly 600 respondents answered, ‘Strongly Disagree’. It’s clear the root issue isn’t having enough data, it’s making sure you have the right data when it’s time to make a tough decision about campus facilities.
Gathering the right data for any critical day-to-day business or investment decision must begin by intentionally scrutinizing the data. Determining whether a data point can be trusted means connecting with stakeholders directly to solicit their input on how to help organize the data in a way that represents reality. For utilization rates, that means discussing shortcomings in scheduling data with the registrar. For programmatic changes, that means reaching out to the departments to determine the trends with the most impact. Putting facilities data under the microscope means going directly to the people who work on the buildings each day to see what’s really going on behind the walls. Engaging these stakeholders will gather the critical soft data points that build trust, inform database structure and strengthen relationships for the work ahead.
These engagements can take many forms — surveys, meetings, focus groups, etc. Structure is crucial during data collection. The structure of stakeholder engagement should ensure trustworthy data is collected and actionable datasets are created. Consider an asset inventory or condition assessment, where asset information is gathered at a particular point and time and updated infrequently. This infrequency leads to a mistrust of the data from the facilities team, particularly when it comes to defining the priority and scope of projects. Soliciting maintenance staff feedback about facilities data adds the day-to-day experience of operating the buildings and will adjust key factors such as expected life of a building system or the Scope of Work needed based on real history with those systems. This structured process has the added benefit of encouraging acceptance and participation across the institution as people will know that their voice is being heard from the outset. This buy-in makes prioritization and communication much smoother.
In the end, trustworthy data lays a strong foundation; one that creates common ground across campus. Adhering to a disciplined approach to creating trusted data from all sections of an institution leads to an understanding of what data is most useful in decision making and developing action plans. Creating trusted data is a daunting task; gathering expertise in the right way eases the stress and lightens the burden among all the stakeholders while ensuring the value it brings doesn’t get buried beneath other priorities.
It’s obvious that colleges and universities need to add a human element to data collection, so information aligns with reality and stakeholders know the long-term plans are built on more than numbers alone. In the end, it’s about building trust. Accessing trusted data is particularly important during master plan creation. Check back later to learn how weaving trusted data together can create a master plan that will benefit the institution today and into the future.