Hidden within the numbers and metrics of your school’s website lies a powerful story.
Analytics have the potential to transform just about any organization, but in the world of education, the benefits of being a data-driven school increase exponentially. A data-focused culture helps create a holistic view of your school or district and improves performances across teams and offices. Helping to meet admission and enrollment benchmarks, data can streamline marketing and communication goals, assist the IT office, and improve ROI to support strategic initiatives.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? So why does becoming a data-driven school seem so challenging?
In a recent survey by Harvard Business Review, over 90 percent of mainstream companies reported that cultural challenges — not technological challenges — account for the biggest roadblocks against data initiatives. As the late-management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
The path to using data effectively can be slippery — departmental silos, lack of leadership support, and the dreaded “but that’s how we’ve always done it!” have all slowed the process of collecting and putting actionable insights into practice.
But despite the challenges to creating a data-first mindset, the benefits are, well … immeasurable. Kind of. Here are three easy steps to becoming a data-driven school.
Step 1: Shift the mindset of your teams
One of the largest challenges in creating a data-first culture is shifting the mindset of your team. To do that takes time, but to embrace the power of data, schools should:
- Train teams on data storytelling to help them to read and understand the data better. There are plenty of resources available for teams to study best practices and ways to leverage data for your benefit.
- Help your team experience the benefits of using data with a quick win. With each success, like implementing a strategy that leads to more page views, increased event registrations, or better open rates, your team will realize small changes can have a large impact.
- Experiment with new ideas and make mistakes. With each iteration, you’ll better interpret the data, and improve your decision-making for next time.
A data-driven culture is built on clear and measurable KPIs, so it’s important to define and communicate the core priorities for your school. Your data and the analytics tools you choose to measure success should be aligned with your enrollment and marketing strategies to attract and retain families, encourage donations, and boost community engagement.
Step 2. Adopt a data mindset
There’s a range of influences data can have on your office and the strategies you implement to guide your decisions. Being data-driven is different from being data-informed, which varies from being data-aware. There’s no “right” answer, but think about your team and your school — which approach defines you best?
- If you’re data-aware, you don’t necessarily let data enter into the equation, but you're aware that data has the power to answer many questions. You’re looking at the larger picture when considering what data can provide.
- Because data might suggest a solution that’s a bit more nuanced, being data-informed is when your team considers data as only one of the important factors in its decision-making process.
- Having a truly data-driven mindset is about allowing data to determine decisions. Answers to bigger questions can be derived from collecting and interpreting important analytics.
Step 3. Help your leadership understand its role
Without support from the top, changing school culture is nearly impossible, so it’s important for school leaders to understand just how data benefits your school or district. Making smarter decisions, automating processes, reallocating resources, and ultimately saving the school or district money helps not just your team, but the entire school community.
When school leaders can see how change positively impacts the school, there’s increased buy-in. School leaders then need to communicate the benefits of data culture and the new ways of working, which means leadership will need to know:
- What data should we prioritize?
- How do we get separate offices to work better together?
- What metrics do we review?
- What software and tools do we need?
- Which data mindset is the right strategy?
Data-focused decisions need to be qualified and illustrated to your school or district stakeholders. It will take time, but it will work.
Data has the potential to produce exceptional results for schools. In an industry where there are endless metrics, reports, and numbers to crunch, schools need to realize the value of data and develop systems to work smarter, not harder. That’s truly when all the zeros and ones become powerful stories.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.