The benefits of good business intelligence to support evidence-based decision making are well known, yet there has been little join up to help education providers exploit it.
HESA and Jisc have joined forces to address this through the development of new and improved services that will enable a wide range of staff to access quality-assured data sets and analysis tools to help make sound business decisions.
- Replace the HESA Higher Education Information Database for Institutions (Heidi) system with an improved production service to bring better business intelligence to a wider range of staff roles and increase capability across the education sector (working title Heidi-Plus)
- Create an experimentation area to examine new opportunities for business intelligence through cross-institutional collaborations (working title Analytics Labs)
- Provide advice, guidance and support services to allow UK education to develop improved business intelligence capabilities
- To create proof of concept dashboards based on the needs of the sector
Progress so far
HESA’s Heidi Plus service launched on 30 November 2015, bringing better business intelligence to a wider range of staff roles and increased capability across the education sector.
Users can creatively analyse and generate insights from extensive and detailed HESA data sets using the latest data exploration and analytics tools. HESA’s official data on students, leavers, staff, finances, business interactions and estates will all be able to be analysed for new business insights.
Dashboards and visualisations are being developed to help answer common business questions and make it possible to generate bespoke analyses and visualisations based on HESA data sets and other sector data.
Heidi Plus is freely available to HESA-subscribing HE institutions with a full HESA subscription, enabling them to gain competitive insights and inform strategic decision-making. Non-profit HE sector bodies can also subscribe to Heidi Plus as an invaluable tool for research, reporting and policy-making.
Jisc and HESA have set up a new community dashboards experts group, with the aim of ensuring the community dashboards appeal to a wider range of end users.
This new group will meet for the first time in October 2017 and will be made up of 40-50 members who represent a wide cross-section of university departments and sections (for example, but not limited to, planning, finance, library, estates, human resources) covering a good mix of data skills, analytics experience, and tableau skills, as well as HESA and Jisc staff.
This group will be HE data experts who bring a detailed knowledge of the opportunities and issues arising from the national data landscape, coupled with technical skills in order to;
- Suggest changes to the existing community dashboard portfolio, such as enhancements, bug fixes, and contributing to recommendations for dashboard retirement
- Design and submit new dashboards for consideration by the group
- Identify key focus areas for future Analytics Labs teams
- Nominating/recommending staff for new Analytics Labs teams
We've been running Analytics Labs (previously known as Heidi Labs) teams since 2015.
Participation offers an excellent continuing professional development (CPD) opportunity and a chance for HE institutions to help develop business intelligence for the wider higher education sector.
Cross-institutional teams work together to solve problems using well-known data sources such as the HESA Collections (drawing on a Jisc/HESA data sharing agreement) linked to other educational (cross sector), demographic, employability, economic and geospatial data sets. Datasets are loaded into a controlled analysis environment (from which data cannot be removed). Teams use cutting edge tools to rapidly produce analyses, visualisations and dashboards for a wide variety of stakeholders to aid with decision making.
They receive weekly feedback and use this for iterative re-development using an Agile Scrum approach. Based on one day of effort per person per week the process results, after around three months, in a suite of polished analysis presented to each other and to sector experts at a closing showcase event.
Outputs are considered for migration to the Heidi Plus service or an alternative Jisc beta service, meaning the offer to all our members, regardless of their capability, is regularly refreshed with new features and data-driven insights.
Key features of Analytics Labs include the opportunity to:
- Access a wider range of datasets than is currently possible, for experimentation purposes, safely and affordably
- Identify currently unknown trends and insights to provide a new evidence base for sound business decisions
- Innovate through collaborative working, for example across institutional planning functions
Community dashboards are community-generated, interactive dashboards.
Analytics Labs teams develop proof of concept dashboards based on the needs of the sector they are working in such as planning, finance, HR, libraries, and more. HESA take these prototypes and ensure that they are suitable to be delivered via the Heidi Plus service. As a result, these new dashboards address the critical questions that need answering by the sector.
To ensure community dashboards remain relevant a group representing a wide cross-section of university departments and experience known as the experts group will be responsible for recommendations of revisions or new dashboards entirely.
A number of community dashboards are already available on Heidi Plus.
Library data labs 2016
The library data labs project was a continuation of the business intelligence project but incorporating library data to get library-specific insights. This work was also a continuation of our library analytics and metrics project (LAMP) project.
We worked with academic libraries to explore the possibilities of using and analysing library data in conjunction with HESA data. Participants were given the opportunity to work with the Analytics Labs toolset (based on Tableau and Alteryx), offering new opportunities to produce visualisations and dashboards they would not have the capacity to create alone. It also provided an opportunity for participants to get practical experience of agile development and work in cross-institutional teams.
Project teams began working in July 2016 and presented their visualisations and dashboards and shared their overall experiences with their peers and a panel of experts at a showcase event in October 2016.
23 October - Experts group meeting.
30 October - Analytics Labs cohort begins.
31 October - Analytics Labs cohort start up meeting.
5 February - Second Analytics Labs cohort begins.
7 February - First Analytics Labs cohort showcase and second Analytics Labs cohort start up meeting takes place.
13 March - Experts group meeting.
14 May - Third Analytics Labs cohort begins.
16 May - Second Analytics Labs cohort showcase and third Analytics Labs cohort start up meeting takes place.
8 August - Third Analytics Labs cohort showcase event.
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