How to Build Trust In Your Higher Education Data: 10 Key Steps



Higher education institutions need to trust their data so that they can engage in effective decision-making. But building trust is not easy. So, we figured we would provide you our ten steps to build this trust.

1. Data requests should be a conversation

Communication is key when two parties are discussing a project. When a data request is received, make sure it is analyzed and questioned. The report developer should ask more questions regarding the report from the requestor. And, place importance on the purpose of the report request. For example, ask: “Why do you need this report,” not “What do you want on this report?”

Build trust by improving the communication between the data requesters and the report developers.

2. Rethink your approach to training

Many institutions provide training on the reporting tool rather than the actual data. We feel more emphasis should be on the higher education data training. Take the training to the users. Make the training fun and easy.

Build trust by enhancing the data training given to those that will be using the data.

3. Start documenting your own reports

Understand your reports by documenting them. Create a template for documenting a report that is used by everyone. The report document should be for both functional and technical users. Make sure you are very specific in defining reporting terms. And, as always, put this documentation somewhere that users can easily find it.

Build trust by increasing the amount of documentation on the reports that are used.

4. Create an institutional reporting knowledge base

Institutional knowledge is developed one question at a time and is ongoing. You are probably not capturing all of this knowledge. If you have not done so, create a simple knowledge base where this information can be stored and easily accessed.

Build trust by establishing a known place where individuals can find the information they need.

5. Establish and empower data stewards

Select a data steward in each department. Then, make sure he/she is properly trained and given enough time/support to be helpful. Let people know to contact the data steward when they have a data question or request.

Build trust by empowering knowledgeable individuals who are accessible when others have data questions.

6. Standardize a report request/change process

People desire a consistent, known process for making requests. Establish a report request/change process that is the same every time. Involve the data stewards in the process, because they will be responding to these requests. The standard request tool can be in something simple like a Word doc, an Excel spreadsheet, a data governance solution like the Data Cookbook, or a ticketing system used elsewhere in the institution.

Build trust by implementing an easy-to-use process for data requests.

7. Establish a data quality resolution process

When there is a data quality issue, the first step in the correction process is knowing who to call. Give people more to do than complaining when they find a possible data quality issue. By involving the data stewards and having a process, data quality issues can be resolved for the long term rather than just applying a band-aid.

Build trust by creating an easy-to-use process for fixing data quality issues.

8. Make your knowledge base easily shared and accessible.

Liberate the knowledge base and have it accessible to report developers, data stewards, and end users. It’s hard to trust what you can’t see. Educate new staff members on where the knowledge base is located, and provide them with the necessary access and training to use it.

Build trust by having data transparency and having data accessible to everyone involved.

9. Link your delivered reports to the documentation in the knowledge base

When you are running a report written in Argos there are ways, such as having the Data Cookbook in place, to see the documentation in the knowledge base for those data elements. The commitment to showing this knowledge at the point of running reports conveys expertise in the data.

Build trust by making information easily accessible right inside the report that the end user is running.

10. Start small, but think big

Building trust in your data is a big task, so don’t try to do it all at once. Start in one department. Document your most critical reports first. Create examples of success and let others know about it so they will want that same success. Focus first on your own department’s success. But make sure that whatever you do, it is scalable to the entire institution.

Build trust with continuous changes to your data governance.

We hope these ten steps are beneficial to helping your institution build trust in your data. Much of the above boils down to improving the communication between data users and owners, having the processes and documentation in place, and training individuals on what is necessary.

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Brian Parish
Brian Parish

As CEO and founder of IData, Inc., Brian is a well-respected thought leader in the information technology (IT), data governance, and institutional research (IR) for higher education. Brian has worked directly with over 500 colleges and universities to increase their productivity with creative and innovative technology solutions. Since 1995, Brian has had the opportunity to work with most of the major higher education ERP systems, many reporting tools, and integrations with countless vendors used by higher education institutions.

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