Gaining the buy-in of faculty and administration is key to the success of an activity reporting database. Linda Brewer, Senior Faculty Research Assistant and Project Manager, and Lucas Turpin, Information Technology manager, recently shared Oregon State University’s (OSU) success in implementing an activity reporting database at our User Group. In the first post in this two-part series, OSU shared how they set goals for the system, got to “yes” with administration to fund data entry, and how their data entry team worked. Here, learn how OSU overcame resistance, used responsiveness to cultivate faculty buy-in and their lessons learned from the project.
While getting administration buy-in at both schools was relatively easy, overcoming faculty resistance can be more challenging. Brewer and Turpin overcame one of the most substantial faculty concerns by getting a “yes” from administration on paying for data entry.
“Faculty are often skeptical of new systems,” Brewer noted. “They initially wondered, ‘Is this a flash in the pan? How long will it last?’” An agreement to pay for data entry signaled to faculty that administration had a long-term commitment to Activity Insight, which eased resistance to adoption.
Brewer and Turpin also urged deans and department heads to “go in and get data from the system, then tell faculty they used it so they see why they should enter information,” Brewer said.
Find Opportunities to Engage
In seeking buy-in from faculty, Brewer and Turpin discovered that the gold standard was the promotion and tenure (P&T) CV. They sought feedback on the first draft of the P&T CV, and iterated on the design based on commentary or insight from faculty.
“We’re probably on our seventh or eighth iteration now, and I make it really clear to faculty and administrators that this is an iterative process and we’re making improvements,” Brewer said. “This has been a great strategy for us. We get invited to faculty retreats and meetings, administrative meetings. At all of them, we indicate that Activity Insight is customizable and if the data entry screens or the reports are not meeting your needs, we need to know about that.”
Win Over Skeptics
Brewer’s existing trust relationship with Extension faculty helped her ease the transition to Activity Insight in that school. In the College of Agricultural Sciences, she faced a different challenge: winning over busy research faculty who didn’t appreciate interrupting their work to record their activities, including a few outspoken skeptics.
In one case, a faculty member raised the concern that he had more than 200 mentions of his work in the media, but there wasn’t a field that seemed to correspond with this kind of information about his work. This launched an extensive discussion in the college about how best to categorize media attention. It became its own data point, distinct from publications, which captures when faculty member’s own work is published.
It took months of raising and considering options, but when the team came to a solution, Brewer shared the discussion with the faculty member who inspired it. “His concern was seriously discussed and resolved,” Brewer said, and demonstrating responsiveness to faculty builds trust.
“Academics don’t expect their concerns to be listened to and acted on. So when I have a vocal naysayer about a goal I’m trying to achieve, I don’t hide from that person,” Brewer said. By soliciting honest feedback from one such research professor, “I turned him from somebody who wanted nothing to do with the system to someone who feels like he’s made a contribution to the progress we’ve made with Activity Insight.”
Build on Early Wins
In 15 months, the data entry team entered seven years of historical data for 550 faculty, cleaned and standardized the information, and earned a team award along the way. They also contributed to the overall success of the implementation by building buy-in from faculty and administration.
“Before Activity Insight, Linda worked on a departmental 10-year graduate program review. For three months, five faculty manually went through CVs—word-processing documents—to gather information. It was really painful,” Turpin said. “We just helped one of our departments complete its 10-year review with Activity Insight data, and it was a significant improvement. The department chair was really happy.”
Cultivate Ongoing Success
Brewer and Turpin suggest promoting the long-term success of a faculty activity reporting solution by:
- Celebrating concerns: when faculty come and say something doesn’t work for them—it means they’re using the system and they care!
- Engaging with faculty and administration: be personable and use humor to keep conversations enjoyable and productive.
- Operating with transparency: share what you do in response to requests and concerns.
“Faculty, in general, will do what they’re asked to do as long as there’s some respect in it,” Brewer noted. “And there’s no respect like listening and making a change.” Brewer and Turpin shared key takeaways for implementation and beyond:
- Set clear expectations for both faculty and administration
- Ensure data entry success by marking up CVs before you begin data entry and staffing to check entries
- Understand your demographics and incentivize new faculty
- Provide lots of training options, from one-on-one to self-paced learning
- Use Activity Insight’s publication integrations: “they make a world of difference”
- Consider ongoing data entry needs, as experienced faculty may require ongoing support
- Keep everyone engaged with regular communication
- Plan for system growth and nurture it
Brewer and Turpin attribute their success in part to their partnership, which brings together the faculty and IT perspectives. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Turpin said.
Implementing faculty activity reporting software is a big project. Want some help getting started? Contact us today.