5.15 Decision Support Systems

Background

The members of the campus community at SCSU are continually challenged to make high quality decisions in an environment of limited resources. The need for current, accurate, timely, and properly interpreted information is an on-going requirement to make well-informed decisions on day-to-day issues and to move the university forward in strategic and visionary ways. For this document, the term Decision Support Systems is used to describe the type of information systems that are specifically designed to provide information for decision and policy making at all levels. This information may be used by

  • federal agencies
  • state agencies
  • local community entities
  • SCSU administration
  • colleges
  • departments
  • individuals, including faculty, staff, and students
  • other campus stakeholders

From the technology support side, it appears that the university has significant data residing in the university database, in one or more data warehouses supported in the Chancellor’s Office, and in other less coordinated local databases. The data is, in general, readily accessible and understandable.

Some issues that should be addressed are identifying

  • the point of contact where data resides
  • the point of contact for data definition
  • the technology tools for data manipulation
  • the channels of information delivery

Across similar universities, SCSU is probably not much different than most with respect to information delivery. The challenge here is to do better, to formalize and recognize that information is critical to the long-term strategic success of SCSU, to train staff and decision makers in the data and tools that are available, and to be a leader in delivering information systems that successfully speak to the information needs of this University.

Goals

In the next five years, SCSU will make significant progress in the retrieval and delivery of information to support decision making and policy making at SCSU. The goals are to
  • use to SCSU's best advantage any existing data and acquire additional data as needed
  • identify and acquire the proper software tools to process the data into information
  • identify, acquire, and use the proper channels for the delivery of information
  • train technologists, end-users, and the entire campus in the proper use of data, tools, and information
  • make the availability and delivery of timely information a normal part of doing business at this university

Specific Actions and Timeline During Fall 2003, charge the Special Assistant to the Provost for Institutional Studies and the Director of the Center for Information Systems to co-chair a committee (including faculty, staff, administration, and student representatives) to

  • identify each significant source of data stored about SCSU
  • identify meaningful characteristics regarding each data store (i.e., common name of the data store, data in the data store, who controls the data, the software tools to access the data, the currency of the data)
  • make this information widely available

The committee will adhere to the following schedule rather than the standard timeline for carrying out and reporting on specific actions:

  • During Spring 2004, the committee will begin a process of identifying and prioritizing critical success factors with respect to information needs. That is, factors regarding information that are critical for success in the delivery and use of information at SCSU.
  • As critical success factors are identified, the committee will attempt to find the proper mix of technology, training, and other resources to ensure that the critical success factors are supported and are deliverable.
  • The committee will stay informed of developments in commercial off-the-shelf software products designed to support these goals and bring forward recommendations regarding purchases or options for SCSU and for MnSCU system-wide use.

Resources

The initial set of resources is primarily related to staff time to compile and inventory existing data and information sources. Undoubtedly, the goal to support the university with a higher level of service quality will call for funds to purchase hardware, software licenses, training, and possibly data. The resource needs will only be known as the initiative moves forward. The committee will be responsible for identifying the costs and benefits for any recommendations put forth.

Evaluation

  • Is SCSU using to its best advantage the available data sets and acquiring external data as needed?
  • Is SCSU using the proper software tools to process data?
  • Are the proper channels being used to deliver information?
  • Has training been provided to properly use the data, the tools, and the resulting information?
  • Is the availability and delivery of timely information viewed as a normal part of doing business at SCSU?
  • Has the committee submitted a final report in Spring 2008?
  • Has the committee made recommendations for the next cycle of technology planning?

Revised: May 2003