Data & The CDO

Oregon State University has built a culture of data informed decision making; however, the overall data environment was not built to support an effective delivery of data for that culture. As one colleague observed a year ago when I first assumed the full time CDO role “data is very easy to get at OSU, it is however, not very easy to use.” For the past year Institutional Analytics and Reporting (IAR) has laid the foundation for that data environment and we are poised to deliver data to leadership that is actionable and readily available and unlocks the power of OSU’s data. It is an exciting time!


As we all know, in today’s world everything runs on data. Higher Ed is not different in this regard, and we are creating the data environment that will enable OSU to continue its strong growth by creating business agility and using data strategically. We view data as the key to being able to pivot systems and processes to match current business needs. As one of our consultants puts it “data ages like fine wine and systems age like fish.” In the past year we have launched a renewed structure for Data Governance, restructured IAR, defined a new data architecture, and deployed a new cloud environment based on AWS Redshift and Tableau under a contract with HelioCampus. With this work we are on track deliver the first round of elements described in the initial architecture this summer including Financial Models, Enrollment Models, and Student Success Models. Our new environment includes reporting and dashboards to support Unit Level Program Review and overall University Financial Management.


As CDO, I spend my time working with senior leadership including the Provost, CFO, VP Academic Affairs, VP for Enrollment Management, and others to understand the business questions they have, what data can best help them make decisions, and working with our data governance structure to ensure that university data is secure and controlled. The business questions include such things as enrollment trends per program for each college for the Unit Level Program Review or understanding how faculty dedicated funds are accounted for by each college so that we can accurately report on current budget status. I then work with my staff and theirs to get them the data they need now while structuring the new data environment to be able to easily provide this data in the future. I spend my time explaining when and how we will deliver new data models, showing newly developed dashboards, and developing a more comprehensive data strategy and the next steps needed to make that strategy a reality.


Your journey starts here. With a strong foundation and a talented staff, the new CDO will be in position to quickly deliver actionable data to leaders that will continue to drive OSU’s success by providing the business agility needed to respond to today’s demands from students and faculty alike.


— Jon Dolan, current OSU CDO


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