Working with colleges and universities throughout the country has allowed me to recognize several common themes as to how institutions typically wish to roll out their dashboards. Often times, the dashboard initiative is driven by a need to provide the President’s Cabinet or Board of Trustees with confidential dashboards. These are often strategic plan, enrollment, accreditation, or student success based.
Other institutions will choose to publish their fact book or strategic plan metrics on their external website, or behind their firewall in a Sharepoint or portal environment to provide transparency. The initiatives mentioned above are fairly common (we can refer to them as the “usual suspects”). However, throughout the past year, I have noticed the following three departmental initiatives seem to be increasing in popularity within higher education:
1. Finance Dashboard Initiative:
Recognizing that everything ties back to the general ledger, there has been significant interest from folks in administration and finance departments at institutions to have access to dynamic, interactive dashboards from which they consume key metrics associated with ratios, budget pieces, key financial drivers, etc. This allows administrators to view their metrics at a high level, and then quickly drill down and interact in an effort to investigate any outliers or variances that they may be particularly interested in. The efficiencies gained, and the real-time insight into institutional costs, have represented a significant value for institutions.
2. Foundation Initiative:
The folks in advancement, development, or foundation will often see the value of utilizing dashboards for major key metrics and KPIs associated with fundraising campaigns, major gift donations, annual fund performance, development representative performance, etc. The ability to visualize these metrics allows leadership to quickly and easily define trends, identify issues, and provide key stakeholders with an easy to consume state-of- the campaign in a dashboard format. I constantly hear feedback from folks that critical information is getting lost in the weeds, making it almost impossible to draw quick conclusions regarding critical metrics and KPIs.
3. Visualize Utility Consumption Initiative:
Utility consumption often represents a significant portion of overall institutional costs on campus. Often times I will hear that folks in facilities will get their gas, water, or electric consumption metrics numbers in heavy, Excel-like reports (and not always in real-time). With the amount of buildings and line items to track on a typical campus, it can be very difficult to quickly pinpoint areas of concern regarding usage until it is too late to minimize these effects. The ability to provide real-time utility consumption data in a high level, visual manner allows leadership the ability to have immediate insight to areas of concern, allowing these folks to immediately correct situations that otherwise would have been very costly to the institution.
Dashboards can be an effective tool in many situations and in many departments across campus not mentioned here. My focus on the areas mentioned above comes from significant levels of interest from many institutions. What metrics could your department potentially utilize dashboards for?