Benchmark with Data from the National Survey of IR Offices

How Does Your IR Office Compare?

eAIR spoke to Katherine Coy, Jeremy Goodman, and Michele Hansen about how they have used data from the 2015 National Survey of IR Offices. They also look ahead to how they will use the new benchmarking tool available with the 2018 National Survey.

eAIR: How did you use data from the 2015 National Survey to improve your IR Office?NSIRO-interview.png

Jeremy Goodman (Olin College): First and foremost, the results of the 2015 National Survey helped me understand my colleagues better. When we are at the AIR Forum or other meetings, we often discover through conversation how much variety there is to our roles – the kinds of data we have access to, how we intersect with accreditation responsibilities, the varying breadth and depth of how we serve our institutions. The National Survey helped paint a clearer picture of that. I learned that my single-person office would be characterized as broad in personality (defined as engagement “with nearly all data initiatives”), that I have access to a greater range of data than many of my colleagues (hello there, unrestricted access to financial aid data!), and that my consumer base has historically been typical – largely senior leadership and academic initiatives.

Beyond helping me understand where I exist in the IR universe, though, the 2015 National Survey also had more concrete effects. The Data Bites from the survey regularly published in eAIR have provided me food for thought. For example, the visualization "How Directors Spend Their Time" from April 2018 gave me the opportunity to think through how I spend my own time in comparison. (My conclusion was that I might be spending too much time in meetings!) The single biggest impact the survey results had for me was to arm me with data about the size of my office. Because I’m at a particularly small institution, I emailed Darlena Jones and asked her if it would be possible to find out the average IR FTE at institutions up to 500 FTE students. Very helpfully, she calculated the figure and informed me that it was 1.8 FTE. Combined with the data on breadth of my office portfolio, this comparative data helped me make a strong argument to add a second position to my office. Today, we are 1.8 FTE!

Katherine Coy (Harper College): We are fortunate in that the current administration does not question the need for our existence. But, if they did, we would have used the result that indicated most schools like us have formal IR offices.   

The results from the survey were used to begin (or contribute to) conversations such as to whom IR should report.  Initially the executive team was leaning toward putting us under IT. The results supported our argument that we should either report to the President or to the head of Institutional Effectiveness. We are now within the Institutional Effectiveness division. 

The survey results also had an impact when we were fighting to retain an open analyst position in my office. We were in a hiring "frost" where every hire needed to be justified to the Nth degree. Using the personalities framework allowed me to clearly articulate how we serve the institution and why I needed to fill the open position.   

Michele Hansen (IUPUI): The office of Institutional Research and Decision Support was formed in August 2015 as a new office and we used the Statement of Aspirational Practice to guide our redesign and operations. We did not use or participate in the 2015 National Survey of IR offices, but plan to do so in 2018 and use the data in the future!  

eAIR: In looking ahead to the 2018 National Survey, what benchmarking data will be most interesting/useful to you?

Michele Hansen: I am interested in the current divisions in which offices are located. We report to the Provost or Chief Academic Officer, and think it is ideal. It would be useful to see where other offices report, or are housed, and where they think they should be housed! Other areas of interest are percent of office work, education levels of office leaders, office staff FTE, and fiscal year expenses.

Jeremy Goodman: I continue to be very interested in what we do in IR from a broad sense. The characterization of office personalities in the original study is a useful framework, but I wonder how that may be changing. Coupling that with ever-accelerating change in technology, I’m wondering how what we do today differs from even a few years ago, and what challenges exist to changing what we do. Beyond that, I’m always interested in factors like IR staffing and resourcing, especially when I consider the challenge to look at IR as a function rather than an office as posed by the Statement of Aspirational Practice.  

Katherine Coy: I would like to see more information on resource allocation and utilization. I am interested in knowing more about the composition of personnel in IR offices (e.g., full-time administrative support, data analysts, data scientists). I am also interested in the tools used to do IR work (e.g., reporting tools, data display tools, data analysis tools).

eAIR: How do you anticipate using the benchmarking results from the 2018 National Survey?

Katherine Coy: Because we are well thought of at my institution, I see using the 2018 benchmarking results to either maintain current level of resources, reallocate resources, or fight for more resources. For me, we have the reputation, and now I need to make sure we can continue to serve the institution well. 

Michele Hansen:  We plan to use the survey to understand more about how our office compares to other offices, primarily to guide discussions about our core work activities (for instance, we do not engage in much space/facilities data analyses and it would be helpful to know if this is a core IR function on other campuses). We would devote staff meeting time to discussing the results and how we can use the results to improve our office.

Also, information on staff professional development planning would be useful in understanding how we can best meet the needs of our decision makers and plan for developing expertise among IR staff members. We could find out that there are activities in which most IR offices engage that we may need to develop expertise in.

Jeremy Goodman: I am interested in the ability to benchmark against the survey results. Benchmarking the IR function at my institution against the survey results would help me understand where my office is now compared to the national portrait. The data and information needs of all our institutions are changing and growing, so the benchmark data can help me anticipate and plan for future needs by seeing what trends exist in IR.


Katherine Coy is Director of Institutional Research, Harper College; Jeremy Goodman is Assistant Provost for Institutional Research & Decision Support, Olin College of Engineering; and Michele Hansen is Assistant Vice Chancellor of Institutional Research and Decision Support, IUPUI.

 

 

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