IR and Key Performance Indicators: An Essential Relationship

90percent.jpgDemand for information is exploding in higher education, and institutional researchers are the center of their institutions’ data and information hubs. Because of this need for data, business intelligence (the skills, applications, and technologies used to leverage an institution’s data to support data-informed decision making) is growing in popularity among institutional senior leaders. 

AIR recently conducted a survey of members to determine institutions’ use of business intelligence (BI) and members’ roles in BI. The survey focused on four key areas: key performance indicators (KPIs), BI software, the changing IR role, and IR budgets. This article highlights findings about KPIs; more information about the overall study and specific findings will be shared in upcoming issues of eAIR.

KPIs are metrics that provide leaders information to evaluate an institution’s success or its progress toward a strategic goal. Examples of KPIs for higher education are enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. In the AIR survey,

  • 90% of respondents indicated that KPIs are important to their institutions,
  • 79% predicted that their IR offices will be very involved in data collection to support KPI reporting within the next three years,
  • 80% noted that their institutions currently track Enrollment KPIs, and
  • 71% reported that their IR offices have primary authority on campus to collect KPI data.

Survey respondents were also asked to identify the areas in which their KPIs originated:

  • 51% of respondents reported that KPIs came from the President/Cabinet,
  • 47% from academic leadership, and
  • 41% from their IR offices. 

How do these findings about IR and KPIs resonate with your work? Share your thoughts and comments below.



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Total Comments: 8
Vee posted on 6/19/2014 1:21 PM
The information in this study strongly resembles what our IR offices have been entrenched in for the last few years. Demand is still growing both internally as well at our State and federal levels.
Matt posted on 6/19/2014 1:36 PM
That sounds about right. I'm impressed that 41% of IR offices are able to generate KPIs - glad to see that IR is able to help set agendas.
Jan posted on 6/19/2014 2:51 PM
Our involvement at a strategic level is increasing - KPIs should be the handful of strategic indicators of the institution's status and/or progress. It's great that IR personnel are playing bigger roles in this work.
Eric posted on 6/19/2014 2:56 PM
All of this makes sense. Of interest to me, to take this a step further, is to explore the degree to which college decision makers use the KPI data. There are times when senior executives request KPIs but they end up not using them.

Thank you for sharing this!

Jeremy posted on 6/19/2014 3:23 PM
We are doing a lot of work to generate this information, but I remain unconvinced that many cabinet-level executives (or boards) are using them to their fullest. I have mostly seen that institutions are reactive to this data, rather than proactive about affecting the outcomes of the KPIs.
JJ posted on 6/20/2014 8:13 AM
I could not agree more with Eric and Jeremy that the utility of the KIPS information is not simply to enlighten stakeholders about the current state of enrollment or other metrics such as retention and graduation, but in how it is used to improve recruitment and admissions policy or student outcomes. It seems to me that it is an ideal time to conduct a survey on how these data are used. Those findings would establish a baseline for an ever-changing environment when more and more states are instituting perform-based funding and the federal government is determined to establish a college ratings system.
Julia posted on 6/20/2014 10:18 AM
I am curious to know what the survey showed with regards to the BI software that is being used and the adoption/success of these tools.
Meg posted on 6/27/2014 4:20 PM
Our office has had to generate its own KPIs for the last four years with attention to addressing any leading objectives coming from the President's Planning Council each year. And, yes, our office has the primary authority on campus to collect KPI data as well.

Good survey! It provides very useful information at the national level.