Bridging the gap between planning and outcome delivery in Higher Education: Part Two

31 July 2023
Job Vacancy Image

Master data management and why you need it

By Jennifer Tavano-Gallacher
VP Higher Education at Inoapps

In Part One of this blog series, we spoke about how Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) can help take the pain out of your master data management. Data is vital to any organization. But if you run a variety of systems, it’s all too easy to end up with so many inconsistent data definitions and disconnected or poor quality data, it loses its power to inform decision making.

Here in Part Two, we’ll explore the power of embracing a data strategy and get you started with managing the master data your Higher Education institution relies on.

What is a data strategy and why do you need one?

A data strategy is a plan that outlines how you’ll manage and leverage data as a strategic asset. It gives you a framework to make informed decisions about data collection, storage, analysis, governance and utilization to support your organization's goals and objectives. 

It’s easy to assume that Higher Education institutions would naturally embrace a data strategy—especially research-intensive universities heavily engaged with systematic analysis of data. Yet many universities have yet to adopt a structured approach to their administrative data.

But that’s changing. These days, it’s increasingly common for universities to invest in data-driven initiatives to improve student outcomes, enhance administrative processes, and drive institutional decision-making. We are seeing an increasing number of institutions implementing data strategies to effectively manage this vital asset.

This then leads to the inevitable question of what a good data strategy looks like and where to start. 

What does a good data strategy look like?

A good data strategy aligns with your overall business strategy and is adaptable to evolving technologies, data sources and changing business requirements. It serves as a guiding document that empowers you to harness the full potential of data to drive innovation, improve operations, and gain a competitive edge in the digital age.

Key components of a data strategy

So where do you start? 

This is an elephant you’ll need to eat one bite at a time, and starting with your master data will set you up for the rest of the meal.

Master data refers to the core data entities that are considered crucial and foundational to your operations and decision-making. It represents the key business entities that are shared across your systems and departments.

Master data typically includes important entities that are consistently referenced and used across different business processes. This could be information about customers and students, programs and modules, suppliers, employees, locations, academic and HR structures, and chart of accounts.

Here’s how to get started with your master data strategy:

1.       Define your scope

The first step in getting your arms around your master data is to define the scope. Start by identifying and cataloguing master data records, their locations and the data flow between systems. 

2.       Standardize the data where possible

Once these items have been identified, you will want, where possible, to standardize this data across the organization and automate updates to reduce manual data entry and errors, enhance data quality and reduce admin overhead. You can use a tool like Oracle Master Data Management (MDM) to facilitate this. At a minimum you need to have a robust business process in place to make sure the data is kept in sync within all systems. 

3.       Document policies & processes

Next, you need to examine and document your master data policies and associated business processes like mandatory fields, approvals, statutory requirements etc. At this point, it’s also valuable to look at the rules required to enforce them and whether those rules can be automated. Lastly, if automation isn’t possible, agree how the process will be reviewed and audited to ensure adherence to the policies. 

4.       Establish roles & responsibilities

You’ll also need to look at the roles and responsibilities in the master data management process. 

Agree master data roles, responsibilities and where they’re located in your organizational structure. Effective management requires a mix of roles from across the business and IT. Consider creating expert user groups to review and approve master data requirements that are aligned to needs across the organization. This is beneficial when creating your initial strategy and for maintaining data quality moving forward. 

Key roles to include

Role Position within your structure Responsibilities
Master Data Executives Strategic leadership Provide direction to Master Data Owners in line with strategic and operational needs
Master Data Owners Managerial and operational support Define the required configuration of systems to meet desired business outcomes
Master Data Specialists IT system support and development Update and maintain configurations in line with approved changes
Master Data Processers Data processing operational users Maintain data, report issues and provide feedback on data quality
Master Data Governance Data quality oversight officer Owns data governance framework and ensures all integrated systems are updated in line with master data requirements

5.       Define your metrics

Lastly, you’ll need to define metrics and SLAs to assess performance and data quality and ensure the master data management process is delivering your desired business outcomes. This is key to the continuous improvement of your processes.

There’s more to do after this to ensure a robust, institutional data strategy, but these are important first steps to help you use your data to support effective business operations and decision-making.

Your master data is the foundation that supports data integration and consistency across your different systems. Creating a sound master data strategy gives you an invaluable single source of truth for critical university business entities and empowers you to turn your operational data into an asset to drive a better student experience and more effective ways of working.

Visit our Higher Education page to find out how we can help you get more from your investment in Oracle solutions.

And if you're already thinking about what goes into an EPM implementation, have a look at our whitepaper: Things to consider when implementing EPM for Higher Education

Share this