Why the University of Iowa is Moving to a Central Faculty Activity Reporting Solution

With a faculty activity reporting solution, universities are able to capture and leverage all of their faculty information to tell their unique story. In the case of University of Iowa, telling each university’s story came at the college level with a custom instance of their faculty activity reporting solution for each college. After years of capturing data this way, the University of Iowa decided that a merger of all of their instances would be beneficial at both the college and university level. During a recent conversation, the University of Iowa shared lessons learned from their experience.

Background

Founded in 1847, the University of Iowa  is one of the nation’s top public research universities, a member of the Big Ten conference since 1899, and an Association of American Universities member since 1909. Iowa is known around the world for its balanced commitment to the arts, sciences, and humanities. It’s home to one of the nation’s largest academic medical centers, the pioneering Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and hundreds of options for affordable, accessible education. The University of Iowa is located in the casual yet cosmopolitan environment of Iowa City, widely recognized as one of the country’s most livable communities. With over 2,000 faculty and 31,000 students enrolled at the university, the University of Iowa confers more than 7,500 degrees at all levels annually.

Challenges of Having Multiple Instances of Activity Insight

In 2008, the University of Iowa partnered with Digital Measures to take advantage of an efficient and effective faculty activity reporting solution. The university started by implementing Activity Insight for the College of Business and over the course of four years launched the system for 10 other colleges on campus. Because each college had its own interpretation and process for internal processes for faculty, administrators on campus felt that separate instances of their faculty activity reporting solution developed at the college-level made the most sense.

Then in 2013, the University of Iowa determined that an opportunity existed to bring all of the university’s faculty data together on one instance of Activity Insight to take advantage of cross-functional reporting. The potential to run reports across colleges to see a holistic view of all of the faculty activities that the university was capturing created further interest in merging the eleven instances of their tool. Suzanne Malo, Faculty Administrative Application Workgroup Leader for IT Services and the Office of the Provost, spearheaded the project.

Overcoming Concerns on Campus

The first step was to ensure a willingness of project leads at each college to endorse a merger of the University of Iowa’s eleven unique instances of Activity Insight. Malo shared, “After speaking to leadership at each college about what they were using Activity Insight for, what was going well and what needed improvement, we realized many people wanted the same thing out of the system. While there are still unique needs for each college, about 75% of the data is the same across colleges. This created a willingness to combine  systems.” She added, “We drew pictures of what each screen would look like in a central solution and how data would map over to to the new screens to help ease each college’s biggest fear: having to input data again.”

For Malo and the project leads at the University of Iowa it was important to address administrative and faculty concerns. First and foremost, it was important that all faculty data—teaching, research, service, publication and grant data—remained intact. In the same tune of data accuracy, Malo spent time with project leads at each college to review data screens to move the proper fields over, hide irrelevant fields and ensure that screens stayed lean. And to guarantee  everyone was on the same page, Malo made communication a key. “Making sure everyone involved knew what we were trying to accomplish was important, for both achieving consistency across campus and for getting feedback if something wasn’t working. The more we can standardize, the more useful the tool will be and the more support we can give centrally.” said Malo.

Advantages of a Campus-Wide Solution

While the driving force of this merger at the University of Iowa is the opportunity to leverage university-wide reporting, there are many other benefits. Once they combined their instances of Activity Insight, the University of Iowa will also be able to:

  • Sort service data by location—using Activity Insight in tandem with a home-grown tool to see what faculty are doing by location and the impact they are having on each community
  • Maintain complete publications data
  • Work with faculty to find research collaborators on campus
  • Provide central support, guidelines and standardization for processes like annual reviews across colleges
  • Create consistent faculty web profiles for all faculty on campus

Malo shared some parting advice for universities who are considering or are in the process of consolidating multiple instances of Activity Insight across campus or multiple college-specific solutions for faculty activity reporting into one. She shared, “It’s important to build communities around the tool. Help people see how they are the same and how the tool is useful. Be sure to recognize differences but acknowledge that the same backbones exist across colleges.”

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