Avoiding data paralysis

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When I conjure up characteristics of a typical admissions professional, I immediately think of words like friendly, knowledgeable, professional, fun-loving (remembering NACAC 2011). My first thoughts aren’t about leveraging financial aid, predictive modeling or data integrity.

Being responsible for data can be a scary thought, even to those “techie” people in admissions who claim to love it. One hazard that CRM expert Mark Miller warns about is data paralysis. Sometimes knowing that all the data is out there waiting to be put to good use can be enough to stop you in your tracks. So, let’s talk baby steps.

Miller offers three suggestions for bringing things under control:

1. Favor smart data over big data. What data points tell the most about the students you enrolled last year? Geographic information? Academic profile? Can you harness that information to more accurately predict the behaviors of your applicant pool? Miller writes, “Smart data is about understanding the value that the information brings to your business.”

2. Use analytics to mine your smart data. Mining the data will help you understand everything from why students choose your institution to how your tuition discounting plan impacts their choice between you and your competitors. Web versions, even free ones like Google Analytics, can highlight the pages on your site that are getting the most traffic. Shouldn’t we spend the most time and energy on the pages getting the most hits?

3. Create a roadmap using data and analytics. Take your analyzed, smart data and build a plan. Determine the students who are most likely to enroll and spend time recruiting them. You might not discard the others — remember it’s just a model — but by focusing your resources it might start to feel a little easier.

Start small. Choose one piece of data that tells part of your enrollment success story from last year. Use that knowledge to learn something about this year’s class.

Read Mark Miller’s article, “Three Steps to Dealing with Data Paralysis”

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