Data Without Action is Not an Insight

Last week, we celebrated the many ways that Tableau can help universities collaborate on projects based on lightning-fast data visualizations and analyses. It is true, Tableau is an amazing tool. However, in the end, it is only a tool.  

An article in the Harvard Business Review, reveals that projects with large investments in data science can still fail at an alarming rate. The reason? The lack of soft skills: social intelligence, open-mindedness, and critical thinking. Let’s say you find a spike in admits to your online program from a neighboring state last semester. Was it a fluke? Was it connected to your University’s marketing practices? Or maybe it was the opening of a new major that people in that state needed?  

You could interview the admissions people to see if they heard anything from the students or other institutions. You could talk to your marketing department to see if a communication went out during that time. You could try to survey those students to ask them why they chose your university.  

After talking to multiple people you haven’t really gotten any answers. The admissions people were busy; marketing said they hadn’t targeted anything to that state at that time. You haven’t gotten many responses from an e-mail survey and the ones that did didn’t seem to find the definitive answer. Your boss doesn’t believe it is worth pursuing and is not willing to invest any more money. What now? Without figuring out a way to dig deeper, this data spike is useless information. 

The truth is that you need buy-in, you need teamwork and great communication skills. When you invest in data analytics, you must invest not just money but time, energy and trust. When FIU invested in tableau and machine learning tools, multiple departments across the university bought-in. They were able to take action because the administrators ran with the data and pursued leads. Everyone was trained in using their data dashboards and this humongous but like-minded team was able to work together to achieve great things – including improving to number 2 in the state’s performance rankings.  

Check out our article, “How the Right Measures Can Lead to Success,” for more on FIU’s use of data to accomplish their goals.