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Action Report 2

Action Project


Highland Community College




Jeff Davidson






  • Planned project kickoff date: 01-01-2005
  • Target completion date: 01-01-2005
  • Actual completion date: —

A. Give this Action Project a short title in 10 words or fewer:

Developing a Data-Driven Planning and Decision Making Culture

B. Describe this Action Project’s goal in 100 words or fewer:

The goal of this project is to make the college’s planning and decision making systems more data-driven. One key component in this process is improving access to, and use of, the college’s information system, which has traditionally not been available for direct access by faculty. Even for staff with access to the information system, querying the system for information has been difficult. Third party software tools will be implemented to address these issues. Improved access to data will allow us to develop a culture based on systematic, data-driven planning and decision-making.

C. Identify the single AQIP Category which the Action Project will most affect or impact:

Primary Category: Measuring Effectiveness

D. Describe briefly your institution’s reasons for taking on this Action Project now — why the project and its goals are high among your current priorities:

Highland Community College has for many years used the Banner administrative and financial software system. This database system is reasonably effective for the regular, well-trained, frequent user to access individual records and to run standard required reports. However, it has less utility for the typical decision-maker who is unable to write search scripts in the query language. Access to the system has been historically limited to Admissions and Records staff, Advisors, Financial Aid staff and a few others. Faculty has not had ready access. The college desires to make the information in its database much easier to access by many more college personnel. Another rationale for this project is to change the college culture into one in which the use of data and subsequent interpretation are routinely used in planning and decision-making. By making information more readily available, the use of data-grounded information, rather than anecdotal “facts,” will become the norm in support of problem-solving. Our expectation is that long term this will lead to real college-wide process improvements.

E. List the organizational areas – -institutional departments, programs, divisions, or units — most affected by or involved in this Action Project:

Areas affected are all areas where staff participate directly in decisions impacting the college. This includes the vast majority of our internal stakeholders, including faculty, administration, and support staff. Information Technology staff and software trainers will also be affected due to the need to maintain software tools and address training requirements.

F. Name and describe briefly the key organizational process(es) that you expect this Action Project to change or improve:

The processes that will be affected span across all of those college processes where problems are identified and staff seek to bring about improvements. Student processes involving registration, advising, faculty interactions, scheduling, enrollment management, program planning and evaluation are most likely to be affected.

G. Explain the rationale for the length of time planned for this Action Project (from kickoff to target completion):

We will form a broadly representative committee to oversee each action project. In addition to the specific task given to each committee, these committees will also be required to develop a program or system to regularly update the entire college community on the progress of the project. These committees will also need to be open to input from throughout the college community and will actively need to seek that input. Finally, the AQIP steering committee will regularly distribute an AQIP newsletter as a tool for continuous “marketing” of the AQIP function on campus.

H. Describe how you plan to monitor how successfully your efforts on this Action Project are progressing:

  1. Extent to which staff and faculty identify on survey instruments enhanced data use in the processes identified above.
  2. Extent to which decision-making involves the use of new data items.

I. Describe the overall “outcome” measures or indicators that will tell you whether this Action Project has been a success or failure in achieving its goals:

  1. Number of information system users.
  2. Extent to which data/information is used in decisions.
  3. Extent to which staff expresses satisfaction with the accessibility and use of the information system.
  4. Extent to which the college develops long range plans and uses them to drive specific decisions.

J. Other information (e.g., publicity, sponsor or champion, etc.):

  1. Collect pre-project survey data on the current extent of use of the information system.
  2. Provide access and training to faculty for the “web” product.
  3. Provide access and training in use of Web Focus software tool.
  4. Provide training in data-oriented problem solving.
    1. Review the efficacy of available data, data sources, and data collection methods.
    2. Promote data-driven process improvements.
    3. Survey extent of information system use.
    4. Begin develop of long range plans based on data-driven analyses of college goals.
      1. Continue data-driven problem solving and decision-making.
      2. Survey extent of information system use.
      3. Begin implementing plans developed in the prior year.

K. Project Leader and contact person:

Contact Name: Matt Gargano, Director Information Technology
Phone: 815-599-3432   Ext.

Annual Update: 2005-09-09

A. Describe the past year’s accomplishments and the current status of this Action Project.

Fall 2004 college-wide discussion of AQIP Principles identified concerns regarding decision processes. Subsequent surveys indicated reasonable level of knowledge of data-driven decision concepts but approximately 60% of respondents disagreed college currently has a data-driven decision culture. President’s Cabinet (25 members & college-wide representation) approved nine element Decision Inventory listing various types of college decisions along with who involved, decision method, required approvals, etc. Inventory included seven-element decision criteria including “Is the decision supported by appropriate data.” Multi-pronged data-driven decision approach was identified including identifying information access needs, providing access to the required data, and effectively using the accessed information in decision-making. Three-day training program developed, in conjunction with IBI (the vendor for our third-party reporting tool WebFOCUS), to be delivered to selected college staff week of 12 September 2005. Two day administrative retreat held July 2005 including 25 directors, deans, vice residents and the president. External facilitator focused on TQM problem-solving and team building. 300% increase in information access this spring by students and faculty compared to last spring using recently implemented Internet access software. Off-campus center cost-benefit analysis completed. Center’s benefits deemed to far outweigh relatively small excess of expenses over revenue for foreseeable future. Filled Institutional Researcher position.

Review (10-28-05):

Based on the information provided in the annual update, the college is making reasonable progress toward completion of the project and development of an institution wide quality improvement culture. A series of actions have been undertaken including the approval of a nine element Decision Inventory, the development of a three day training program, and the implementation of a summer retreat. The 300% increase in information access indicates increased use of the data base, one of the outcome measures identified for the action project (AQIP Category 7, Measuring Effectiveness). The combined training, technical enhancements, and use of the Decision Inventory can help the college in reaching its goal regarding culture. The first of the four identified outcome measures, i.e., increased usage, appears to be progressing according to plan. The other three, i.e., data used in decision-making, staff satisfaction, and long range plans, are longer term results that may not be fully measurable within the action project timeline. It is unclear whether the cost-benefit analysis of the off-campus center represents an ad hoc study or the systematic use of data in decision making. If the latter, then the cost-benefit analysis and subsequent decisions and actions resulting from that analysis could provide a model for using data in decision making.

B. Describe how the institution involved people in work on this Action Project.

The core action project team consists of fifteen people from faculty, administrative, and classified employee groups. College-wide AQIP Principles discussion involved over one hundred faculty, administrators, custodial and maintenance staff, and classified staff. Most full-time employees participated and a few part-time instructors. The initial training project for accessing information from our Banner Information System using the WebFocus query software involves fifteen college employees including academic deans and associate deans, academic division secretaries, instructional support staff, the college’s new institutional researcher, information technology staff, and the college’s public relations officer. Interested faculty will be trained during the next training phase. Approximately 35% of the college’s college credit students currently register for classes online using the new self service internet access. During the spring 2005 semester 80% of full–time faculty directly accessed course or student information in this way. The college has also kept all employees informed of progress through semi-annual Opening Days discussions, an AQIP picnic, and also at various communication meetings (President’s Cabinet, AQIP Steering Committee, etc.) Ongoing communication include “spotlights” of various action project workgroups, updates on the Colleges intranet (Cougarnet), and other regular updates.

Review (10-28-05):

The action project team includes representatives from different employee groups (AQIP Category 4, Valuing People). The use of online services is being monitored and measured (AQIP Category 7, Measuring Effectiveness). The training on the new system builds capacity (AQIP Category 6, Supporting Institutional Operations). The work on this action project corresponds to several of the Principles of High Performance Organizations, including broad based involvement, creating a learning-centered environment, investment in people, and fact-based information gathering. There is widespread involvement and multiple avenues for communication.

C. Describe your planned next steps for this Action Project.

Next steps for this project include the on-going training of data-driven decision-making using WebFOCUS through perpetuating the cohort training by charging employees in the cohort group with training additional end users. In addition, the cohort group will receive further training above and beyond the introductory training. This training will continue for the next year until all college personnel who need trained have been and are comfortable with their skill level. This training will include: the theoretical approach to making data-driven decisions, formulating appropriate queries, and hands-on report generation using WebFOCUS. Initial cohort members selected based on these individual’s need for this tool or the individual’s ability to then train others. Furthermore, HCC will begin to roll out various centralized and decentralized protocol to access the information needed. In addition to these various protocols, HCC will add new elements (fields), tables, and views to our ODS (Operation Data Store aka Data Warehouse) in an on-going fashion, to ensure that the ODS is populated with relevant data to be used toward various efforts. Will administer an employee survey next spring regarding satisfaction with new information access of self service internet products, WebFocus, and perception of data driven decision culture within the college.

Review (10-28-05):

Highland Community College is to be commended for keeping the focus on the use of data for decision making and avoiding focusing on technology for technology’s sake. The project has reached the point where preliminary survey data can be gathered concerning satisfaction with the new system and perceptions regarding data-driven decision making. The annual update does not mention satisfaction or perception data gathered concerning training or system development. Using data for improving the training and system development processes now can help model data-driven decision making. That in turn can help develop the culture.

D. Describe any “effective practice(s)” that resulted from your work on this Action Project.

Effective practices include the ability to identify information access needs by targeted fact-finding initiatives and excellent collaboration and teamwork of the Banner information internet access teams.

Review (10-28-05):

Either of these effective practices could be presented as sessions at the HLC Annual Meeting.

E. What challenges, if any, are you still facing in regards to this Action Project?

Challenges involving configuration changes to the Operation Data Store (formerly the Data Ware House) and scheduling problems which again delayed the WebFocus cohort training by over six months. These problems have been resolved and the three-day training is scheduled for 12-14 September 2005. Challenges, which have been overcome, were related to asking the right questions in an effort to gain useful feedback from College faculty and staff in order to deliver better information access and also to begin to develop a culture of data-driven decision-making. One challenge that we are working to overcome is more involvement of those faculty and staff who need this training in using these information access tools. The issue is not one of buy-in, but of workload and availability of employee time. We are confident that we can address this challenge.

Review (10-28-05):

The delays due to configuration changes and scheduling problems appear to be normal parts of the process. Issues of workload and availability are always challenges, and the college is to be commended for overcoming those same challenges to get this far in the action project. Highland’s success in handling workload and availability gives some confidence in the college’s ability to take the next steps. If there is a way to gain improved efficiencies through the increased use of technology and data, that increase may mitigate the workload challenge. One caution, though, is that often increased use of technology increases workload even if it increases efficiency. You may want to consider gathering workload data, possibly through the surveys that you have planned for measuring satisfaction.

F. If you would like to discuss the possibility of AQIP providing you help to stimulate progress on this action project, explain your need(s) here and tell us who to contact and when?

Not at this time.