Too much tech? Here’s how a data management platform can help

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Too much tech? Here’s how a data management platform can help

Today’s colleges and universities run on technology. The last decade has seen cloud-based technologies usher in new systems that create, use, process, and rely on data in every corner of campus. In the past, a campus may have had three to four centralized core systems. Today this number could be in the dozens, if not hundreds. The resulting technology ecosystem is much more complex, more fragmented, and often more disconnected than ever before.

Technology Ecosystem Growth Reaching Every Corner of Campus

Figure: In the last decade, the number of technologies has dramatically increased

The data that is consumed and produced by various systems represents individual parts of an institution’s story—its students, its faculty, its colleges and departments. But more and more, institutional leaders are asking for a 360° view of the full story these component parts could tell, in order to inform decision-making processes.

Integration: the act of connecting two or more software systems together in a manner that enables the systems to feed data from one into the other or between them

This desire is understandable and assumed to be within the institution’s reach, given the wealth of data collected.  However, these requests require mapping data elements across many separate systems and identifying the correct data points and values—which can often be a lengthy process for the IT professionals tasked with making it happen. Providing this holistic data view is becoming more complicated as the proliferation of technology continues and the need to connect multiple disparate systems increases. This is why each institution needs an integration strategy.

Expanding ecosystem causing operational burden for IT team

Unfortunately, at most colleges and universities, the expanding technology ecosystem is causing palpable growing pains. At one major public university, technology sprawl resulted in 40+ databases, 600+ integrations, and a complicated architecture that was impossible to navigate for all but a few individuals at the institution. This kind of tech chaos is the norm, not an exception at most institutions.

Growing digital demand, manifested through new technologies and applications on campus, has overwhelmed IT organizations with an onslaught of projects that require development and maintenance of connections between disparate systems. However, for most institutions, this demand has not been supplemented with increased resources, leading to a consistent backlog of IT projects and underdeveloped integrations.

The number of new integrations we’ve built has doubled every single year for four years. We did 80 this year. Trying to scale what we’re doing is just not sustainable.

Director of Enterprise Infrastructure, Large Public Research University

To reduce the operational burden, colleges and universities need a solution that scales IT resources and enables efficient movement of data between systems while being flexible enough to adapt to the evolving architecture of the technology ecosystem. Though not common in higher education, one successful solution used widely in other industries is a Data Management Platform (DMP)

What is a Data Management Platform?

A DMP is a centralized framework for unifying and organizing data according to common business use case definitions and making that data available to integrate into other systems or analytics applications.

600+

Integrations required (across 40+ databases) at one university due to expanding tech presence
Integrations required (across 40+ databases) at one university due to expanding tech presence

In digital marketing, DMPs have been used to collect and manage disparate consumer data from multiple sources and create a unified view of their customers. DMPs enable companies to gain a comprehensive understanding of their market and better serve them according to their expressed interests and needs. This ability to create a holistic view of students and faculty could be just as beneficial to higher education.

Several higher education solutions exist that can perform some of the functionalities of a DMP, such as to facilitate one-way integrations, or integrations between select systems, or store data organized in a machine-readable way. But unlike these existing one-dimensional solutions, a DMP more significantly further reduces IT operational burdens by focusing on creating a flexible data environment.

DMPs are open-purpose, vendor-agnostic, and future-proof:

Open Purpose: Instead of requiring source system experts to enable access, a DMP allows more stakeholders across campus to use and access data by organizing it according to understandable, real-world definitions.

Vendor Agnostic: While select source system vendors provide their own methods to aggregate data primarily within their ecosystem of technologies, a DMP doesn’t limit integration capabilities according to vendor or system. Instead, a DMP enables the open architecture demanded by the wide variety of modern cloud applications.

Future-Proof: As new technologies are integrated on campus, organizational needs evolve, and new use cases for data emerge, a DMP that is open purpose and vendor agnostic will minimize disruption and accelerate sustainable innovation.

EAB believes that data management platforms, like our Education Data Hub, have the power to help IT teams realize the full value of their data, thereby empowering the institution to become more data- and student-centered.

To learn more about how DMPs can help CIOs unlock the insights hidden in their expanding technology ecosystem, download our new white paper “Activating the Analytics Mandate.”