Data People are Everywhere on Your Campus. Here’s How to Bring Them Together.

Long gone are the days where one department is the “data office”. Nearly every office and department uses data. Many even generate and store their own data. Data people are everywhere, bringing them together can make your job easier.

Man holding compass in snowy forest

Why Aren’t Data Creators Talking More?

If there are many data creators, where are the data discussion groups? Aside from being too busy, data creators and users can often have different approaches and access to data. While some people look at some data, others may not have access to it. So, we have a need to bring data people together to cross share their analyses more.

Bringing the Data People Together

Ask the questions that you wish people would ask you:  If you are a data wonk, you know that it’s not often that someone asks you about your recent analyses and what you find interesting. So be that data person who asks others the questions you would want to be asked! This shows your interest in the person and their work, and you will learn the types of projects that they are working on. This is important for building relationships and cross-sharing info.

Coordinate a regular forum: Create a brown bag lunch, info session, seminar that allows for data folks to share some information about a recent report with other data wonks. Why? People learn about other data that is available, ask questions, and make suggestions that will make future analyses better.

Send an article/resource to other data people: If you are reading this, chances are you read a variety of news services. When you see an article that you think may be relevant to someone’s work, send it to them. Instead of sending an “FYI” email with a link, include a note that indicates why you thought about them and what stood out in the article. This takes an extra 3-5 minutes of your time, but it now is a discussion topic the next time you see them. Or, better yet, include a proposal to grab coffee or lunch to talk more about it or pick their brain. Your conversation may lead to more ideas for how you can bring the data people on campus together.

Data People having coffee

Have you uncovered data allies hiding on your campus? What tips do you have for finding and bringing them together? We’d love to hear them!

Planning for a Smooth IPEDS Data Collection Cycle

With the IPEDS Winter data collection cycle nearly complete (don’t forget to hit lock by February 13!), we will soon shift our focus to preparing Spring data. While it may seem like there’s little time to take a deep breath in between the cycles, finding a little time for planning for a smooth IPEDS data collection cycle will pay dividends as we approach April’s deadlines.

To Do list with 
1. Wake Up
2. Coffee (underlined)
3. The Rest...

The rest would include planning for a smooth IPEDS data collection cycle.

Review Survey Changes

One of the easiest and most valuable ways you can get ahead of the next data collection cycle is to begin by checking out the Changes to the IPEDS Data Collection document for the current year. The document will classify the changes for you so you can quickly see additions/deletions/rewordings for each survey component, as well as a justification for the modification. This way, you don’t have to compare the data elements on your own and you won’t overlook a change until the last minute!

Pass the Information Along

Since the Changes to the IPEDS Data Collection document separates the changes by survey, you can easily share the appropriate information with the correct campus partners. Rather than just directing them to the page, you can quickly and easily copy and paste the relevant information into an email to the responsible parties for their respective surveys.

IPEDS is a Team Sport

By planning ahead for a smooth cycle and sharing changes, you show your colleagues that you are trying to make the IPEDS data collection process easier and less frustrating. In addition, you reinforce that IPEDS is a team effort and that you are available to support them, even if you’re not a Subject Matter Expert. Finally, your email can also serve as a friendly reminder of the upcoming deadline ?

Professionals in a huddle with hands in the center. Working together for a smooth IPEDS data collection cycle.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have additional tips or techniques you use when planning for a smooth IPEDS data collection cycle!

Planning to Succeed in 2019

It’s hard to believe 2019 is here already. If the new year can sneak up this quickly, so too can deadlines. It happens to all of us. So, let’s do better at planning to succeed this year.

Whenever I think about the concept of planning to succeed, tax-time comes to mind. Tax-time always seems so far away. And each year, after scrambling to get all of the receipts, W-2s and other tax related documents together, we vow to implement a better system next year and be first among our family and friends to get our refunds (we can all dream of getting a refund!).

But alas, every year we find ourselves scrambling because we put off planning to succeed at next year’s taxes. And this is a known deadline that happens at the same time every year – like birthdays, Christmas, etc! What about the deadlines that come up with less than 364 days’ notice? We have even less time to plan for those. Is there something we could do today to work toward planning to succeed in those things that we might not even know are coming?

Planning for Success

What is it about planning that we are so averse to? Do we secretly enjoy the thrill and drama of a deadline? [Will I make it? Will I miss the deadline? Who else can help? If I miss it, what are the consequences?] And even if we do get some twisted, secret enjoyment from narrowly making it in before the wire, wouldn’t we be much more productive if we weren’t regularly sprinting for a finish line?

Regardless of your reason for postponing planning, here are some suggestions to help you with planning to succeed this year:

  • For the planning haters: Great news!!! There are people around you who LOVE planning. Delegate this to them. They will be thrilled for two reasons: 1) they get to do what they love and 2) your lack of planning can irritate and frustrate your colleagues who are planners. So this is a win-win situation – you don’t have to plan and someone else who enjoys this work gets to do it. You can simply say, “I’d like to leverage your expert planning skills. Could you prepare a plan and have it ready X days before I need it?” You likely were not going to think about a plan until two days before, so you too are stretching yourself to begin a bit earlier. And – the planner won’t bug you before the deadline. Secret tip – planners stick to deadlines.
  • For the planning lovers: You can’t turn it off – you plan all of the time. And why would you turn it off? It doesn’t hurt anyone else to plan. It doesn’t cost anything more to think about plans in our head. In fact, most of us (yes, I’m on Team Planner) secretly develop plans so that we can effortlessly pull out a well-organized plan on a moment’s notice. The important thing for planning lovers to know is – everyone knows we are planners. And even thought it partially annoys them, it also it the thing that the planning haters wish they were better at.

I shared with a very good friend and colleague about an experience where I was having difficulty communicating with a colleague. He said, “Kristina – I know exactly what that person was thinking. Us non-planners don’t want people to highlight our lack of planning.” It had never occurred to me that my enjoyment for planning was not enthusiastically embraced by others. That perspective has helped me to look for opportunities or requests to share my planning work, rather than sharing it whenever I want to. Secret tip – timing is everything. Be prepared, but wait until you are asked to share your the plans.

Leveling Up: From Planning to Strategizing

No matter what level of planner you are, make the move from planning to succeed to strategizing for success. What’s the difference you ask? Great question! Strategy is choosing a path, where as planning is maximizing the chosen path. Don’t I need both? Yes – both to some degree is important, but it is strategy that will help advance your organization and planning will move you through the process.

Now, if you really want kick off the new year with a bang, start working on moving from planning to strategizing. The to-do list of your plan will serve you well enough. But, by moving from outlining the steps it takes to get something done to identifying and taking the most effective steps to achieve your goals, you’ll be helping your team reach its full potential.

Happy 2019! I wish you and yours health, happiness, and productivity!