What is “Data Management”?

Students enjoy time outside to collaborate on projects on the Spokane campus of Washington State University, Wednesday, May 29, 2019.
Students enjoy time outside to collaborate on projects on the Spokane campus of Washington State University, Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

Data management creates a framework to help improve how WSU approaches data. It will help us understand where data is stored, how it is secured and accessed, and how we use it, including the tools we use to report on and analyze it. This will enable us to develop a data management plan and convene a council for data and analytics, who can prioritize and help solve the most pressing issues and recommend policy revisions where needed. We will also build a data community to guide each other and better document and share institutional knowledge.

What is the Data Management Program?

The Data Management Program is a system-wide, multi-phase program that will transform how we manage and approach data, analytics, and the underlying technology to support. It will build on current efforts to improve data-informed decision-making at all levels. 

Through the Data Management Program, we are building a culture where everyone has the knowledge and tools they need to access, store, share, and transform data system-wide. 

Why do we need a Data Management Program?

While some WSU data moves through large, centralized systems (like myWSU and Workday) and is stored centrally (like the OBIEE data warehouse), much of it is siloed and difficult to access. It can be hard to report on and analyze data from multiple sources, and even harder to visualize that data in a way that helps leaders gain clear insights. Through anecdotes and survey responses from hundreds of employees, we know we have plenty of room to improve. We need to make data more accessible, accurate, and actionable for all who need it.   

A new approach to data is outlined in the WSU system strategic plan: “WSU proactively uses data in decision-making to enhance administrative efficiency and strategic leadership across the system. Strategic priorities, environmental sustainability, financial sustainability, resource allocations, transparency, and predictability are all based on data-informed performance indicators and metrics.” 

The program will lead to changes physically (new tools, better access, training, updated policies) and philosophically (cultural shifts, better data literacy, improved decision-making based on data).    

How are we defining “data”? What kinds of data are included in this program?

This program focuses on business data, which is data that directly impacts daily WSU operations. It does not cover research data, which is data collected from observational and experimental studies for the purpose of scholarly exploration and publication. For example, if your lab is measuring heart rates of mice, we are interested in knowing which software you use to store and analyze the data, but we don’t need to know the heart rates of the mice. 

Ellie Richardson

About the Author

Ellie Richardson is a Strategic Communication Assistant for the Office of Strategy, Planning, and Analysis.