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Business Officer Magazine

Harness Technology for Optimal Planning

More than a dozen sessions in this track addressed performance measurement, financial sustainability, debt financing, and lessons learned from the 2008 financial markets.

Metrics at a Bargain

Institutional analytics don't have to be expensive, as a dynamic new young leadership team at St. Michael's College (SMC), Colchester, Vermont, demonstrated in 2006. Mary Jane Russell, director of finance, and William Anderson, chief information officer, described the process in the session “Bargain Analytics.”

A team assembled with representatives from information technology, finance, student financial aid, admissions, institutional research, and advancement learned the design process at a workshop given by IDEO, a global design consultancy. Two months later they had created the first dashboard report, which includes typical core metrics plus some unique to SMC. The scorecard is updated each semester. Reports are Excel-based with hyperlinks to detailed data behind the scores (e.g., enrollment, financial aid). The formulas built into the spreadsheet make for easy updating.

For benchmarking, SCM uses data taken from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the Higher Education Price Index (available from the Commonfund), and the NACUBO Tuition Discounting Survey.

The Tableau software, used for data visualization in this process, is not expensive and the Microsoft software is already in place. After an initial investment, the time commitment to track metrics is minimal. Russell and Anderson said that use of the scorecard has improved communication and understanding between finance and fundraising areas. SMC is into its third year of capturing and using the metrics.

Open Access for Accountability

Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC), Minnesota, has developed a unique Web-based interface to assist employees and departments with the institution's strategic planning efforts—and it's available for the public to view.

According to Marilyn Hansmann, vice president, and Dave Weber, chief of strategic operations, RCTC began developing the Web portal in 2006 with the goal of aligning resources with the institution's strategic directions. This unique, customized program was all done in-house. Beginning with a one-page strategic planning “map,” the portal is organized in a way that addresses several measures, drivers, and forces to consider throughout the planning process.

Participants in the session “Achieving Strategic Alignment” were surprised that the Web portal is open to the public, but it was deliberately designed so that individual departments could input their own data. Each screen has explanations of the type of data being collected along with examples of how to complete every step, and all the measures are linked to institutional goals.

While concerns of confidentiality initially arose during the development phase, the institution believed that the open access would foster a culture of open communication that would lead to a better understanding and communitywide support of the strategic plan and the entire implementation process.

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