Institutions are increasingly "data rich" as they deploy reporting and analysis environments such as ASR's "Student Success Analytics," Blackboard Analytics, Zogotech, or their home-grown data warehouses. What is less clear is how well they are using it to drive data informed decision making. Lots of data is available and lots of information is on dashboards. But, as we work with institutions during the rollout of reporting and analysis, the biggest challenges are working with people and process to drive change.
Mark Twain famously said: "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."
The higher education corollary is: "An institution that has good data and does nothing with it has no advantage over an institution that has no data."
It seems obvious. If you're driving your car and see this:
Aren't you going to do something about it before you run out of gas? However, this doesn't seem to be the behavior of many institutional decision makers. As they watch enrollment and completion trending downward, they just keep arguing about the numbers among themselves. Rarely have we seen an institution take fundamental and meaningful action to change process or policies that could have an effect on the numbers. Granted, the underlying cause and potential solutions may not be obvious, but further data exploration and predictive analysis can certainly provide ideas and test theories.
The problem is getting out of the discussion phase and doing SOMETHING. Break out of the political gridlock. Cross boundaries of responsibility. Get buy-in to change. Just watching the needle is not going to change the outcome.