Changing Culture through Democratizing Data

Photo by john mcsporran — Creative Commons 2.0

Earlier this year, I met the President and the CIO from Coppin State University at a national CIO conference. The few minutes that I talked with these two positive leaders was incredibly valuable, illuminating, and hopeful.

Maria Thompson became the president of Coppin State two years ago. She had the vision that Coppin State would be a learning organization and that their decisions would be data driven. Under her direction and in partnership with the CIO, every single employee now has access to the most current data on a campus dashboard that shows five years of student success data.

Her leadership team looks at the data in every meeting and makes decisions based on the latest information. The same dashboard that the leadership team looks at is available to every employee from professors to janitors. This allows distributed decision making that is based on the same set of of information.

Ahmed M. El-Haggan, the CIO, provides training across campus that is focused on what the data means so that people can use it to make good decisions. His team purposefully selected a very user-friendly tool so that the technology was not a barrier to using the data.

This democratization of data is helping individual students.

Professors can see whether their students are enrolled and reach out to individuals who may be at risk. This is happening dynamically because the information is easily available. Before the data was democratized, if a professor wanted to get this type of information, a formal request needed to be made with several security signoffs that took weeks.

This effort has helped shift the culture across the campus to one that promotes empowerment, shared leadership, and deep learning. The president said that her job is a lot more fun now that the data is democratized.

I loved this story because it is such a concrete example of the power of transparency, trust, and training in creating a positive culture. So this week, think about how you can democratize data to shift the conversation and culture in your organization.

2 thoughts on “Changing Culture through Democratizing Data”

  1. Are you able to share what tool Coppin State is using for their data dashboards? Also, what considerations did they make for protecting student privacy, especially when the data is shared outside of a small core group (i.e. with professors, all staff)?

    1. They are using a tool called iStrategy for their dashboards.

      This is what I had in my notes about what people get access to what data. All individuals on campus have access to aggregate numbers. Access to detailed data is based on roles. All administrators and deans and chairs are given access to all data across all colleges. Can look at activities across the entire university.

      They have IT governance groups where the policies were hashed out. Faculty advisory board – faculty defined policies. Students advisory board. Information resource management committee – president level committee.

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