President Turner Introduces Data Governance Initiative

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I am excited to announce the launch of a new Data Governance Initiative with the goal of enabling SMU faculty and staff to access information more effectively to make better strategic, data-informed decisions.

In June 2016, an Operational Excellence initiative began to explore implementation of a data warehouse at SMU. A team of University staff and faculty conducted a thorough six-month review of the University’s data holdings, processes and systems. During its review, the team found discrepancies in how data was entered and defined by campus users, which highlighted a need to better define and organize data. Additionally, challenges were identified regarding inconsistent definitions, lack of integrative reporting, and the absence of robust data visualization capability.

For any organization, the process of moving from disparate data collections and definitions to easily accessible data requires careful planning and cooperation. Data governance focuses on improving data quality and access to data, establishing operational definitions, exploring business processes, and developing documented policies. While individual units and departments have responsibility for specific portions of data, often the University is called on to report information and make decisions based on institution-wide data. For some things as simple as what defines an academic department, degree or major across the University, it’s often impossible due to discrepancies to compare and contrast data from school to school or to report accurately across the University.

The new governance process recommended by the Data Warehouse Initiative Team will be led by Michael Tumeo, director of Institutional Research. He also will serve as the Data Governance director and lead two committees to address data governance issues at SMU. The Data Governance Steering Committee (DGSC) will include senior administrators from across campus who will discuss overarching data needs and challenges to help SMU make better and more timely decisions. This committee will provide guidance and direction to the Data Governance Committee (DGC), which will primarily include data administrators, or those with data management influence, in their specified areas. This group will make decisions about definitions, quality, and timelines, and will bring knowledge of how data is used in their functional areas. All areas of the University will be represented on both committees. Within the first two weeks of April, invitations to serve on these committees will go out to university faculty and staff. Initial work will begin prior to the end of Spring term.

Data governance is an important step forward for SMU as we strive to meet, and exceed, the goals and objectives outlined in the University Strategic Plan. Ultimately, having clear data definitions and better access to data across SMU will allow us to make better decisions.


Gerald Turner