Data strategy is a differentiator for universities. Here’s how to get it right

Data is critical to success for universities. Data provides insights that support the overall strategy of the university. It can also help with specific use cases: from understanding where to invest resources and discovering new ways to engage pupils, to measuring academic outcomes and boosting student performance. Data also lies at the heart of creating a secure, Trusted Research Environment to accelerate and improve research.

Yet most universities struggle to collect, analyse, and activate their data resources. There are many reasons why.

For a start, data is often siloed according to the departments or functions it relates to. That means the various “dots” that join these datasets are missed, along with any potentially valuable insights.

This has not been helped by the fact that universities have traditionally lagged the private sector in terms of cloud adoption, a key technology enabler for effective data storage and analysis. One thing holding universities back has been a reluctance to move away from traditional buying models. Long-term CapEx agreements have helped universities manage costs, but such models are inflexible. In the age of the cloud, what’s needed is a more agile OpEx-based approach that enables universities to upgrade their data infrastructure as and when required.

Finally, the skills gap remains a challenge to the better use of data. Eighty-five percent of education leaders identify data skills as important to their organisation, but they currently lack 19% of skilled professionals required to meet their needs.

How can universities overcome these barriers? The first step is to put in place a robust data strategy. Each strategy will be different according to the unique needs of the university, but at a minimum it should include the following:

Evaluation of current data estate to understand pinch points and siloes so these can start to be tackled.Alignment of organisation strategy with technical requirementsEvaluation of the cloud market and cloud adoption roadmap to enable data transformation and agile, integrated data use.Comprehensive upskilling programme to overcome data skills gaps.

As universities embark on this journey, finding the right partner will be critical. One option is to team up with a company like SoftwareONE, which has extensive experience in enabling data strategies for large organisations.

Significantly, SoftwareONE is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Consulting Partner, which means it can bring to bear the capabilities of one of the world’s leading cloud platforms. SoftwareONE adds value by optimising and automating AWS infrastructure as code, which makes it faster and less expensive for universities to get their cloud data programmes up and running. The company also offers a rapid, cost-effective, and secure path to building trusted cloud-based research environments. 

What’s more, partners like SoftwareONE can help address the skills challenge, and not only through automation. SoftwareONE helps to upskill IT teams at universities and provides a full infrastructure as a managed service. Whatever your organisation’s level of comfort with the cloud, SoftwareONE can help you leverage cloud-based data tools with ease.

For more information about how SoftwareONE can help build your data strategy click here.

Education and Training Software, Education Industry