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How do you stack up?

Gathering data is one thing. Deriving value from it is another.

That’s the goal of CUCCIO’s Benchmarking and Measurement program. Established in 2009, the program collects and reports on data related to IT investments and productivity within member institutions.

Based on a model adopted by CAUDIT (CUCCIO’s sister organization in Australia), CUCCIO has been developing a data set that allows member institutions to compare themselves to one another.

Bob Gagne, CIO at York University and Past President of CUCCIO, is fully engaged in CUCCIO’s benchmarking work – acting as the sponsor CIO and head cheerleader for the program.

“The ability to better understand what each of us does in relation to our peers was identified early on as valuable to all CUCCIO members,” Bob said. “One of our major strengths as an organization is our ability to gather this comparative data.”

CUCCIO’s Benchmarking and Measurement program collects a small number of data points and uses them to generate a number of reports, including the IT spend as percentage of total university revenue, the percentage of university staff working in IT and IT investments per student. In addition to the member-contributed data, existing sector data, such as enrolment data from AUCC and financial data published by CAUBO is also used.

Recently, Bob joined Lori MacMullen, CUCCIO’s Executive Director, to present Benchmarking IT: Driving Value to the attendees of CAUBO 2014 – a talk designed to discuss the value that benchmarking can provide university leadership.

“Many universities are looking at how and where they invest their resources, so leadership in all areas, including IT, is becoming increasingly interested in this type of information,” Bob said.

With three years of data gathering now complete, the focus of CUCCIO’s Benchmarking and Measurement program will be to find ways to improve and broaden the data sets.

“CUCCIO is also collaborating with EDUCAUSE on how we together can provide services to CUCCIO members through their broad metrics program, Core Data,” Bob said. “Our next area of interest is understanding the breakdown of investments within IT – what types of services we deliver, and how much we invest in each.”

The process of gathering these types of data, however, is not without its challenges.

“The two most prominent challenges are precision and consistency when collecting the data – in other words, making sure we’re comparing apples to apples – and full participation in the program,” Bob said. “Right now, about 50 to 60 per cent of CUCCIO members participate. For those institutions not yet participating, we just want them to understand that if they share their data, they’ll have access to a very helpful report without having to do any of the work. We’re working to make it as easy as possible to participate, and then provide the consolidated information in a format that adds value to our members.”

As for CUCCIO’s participation at CAUBO, Bob says it’s all about helping the CAUBO audiences understand what CUCCIO is doing in this space, and encouraging executive leadership within member institutions to reinforce the importance of participation on their respective campuses.

“When an institution looks at themselves relative to other comparable organizations, they learn,” Bob said. “Benchmarking doesn’t provide answers, but it allows you to ask better questions. The great thing about CUCCIO is that most CIOs know each other quite well, so we can get in touch with our colleagues and have deeper discussions over questions that arise. It really helps us spot potential areas of exploration and improvement.”