Data Strategy Focus Group Sessions Begin

A data strategy that defines how the U of A organizes, analyzes and applies data to decisions will ultimately further the university's 150 Forward strategic priorities — advance student success, achieve research excellence and enhance the university's status as an employer of choice.

To develop a robust approach that increases the availability and consistency of institutional insights and analytics, the U of A has identified nearly 200 data specialists across campus and began hosting a series of focus groups with them in May to gain insight into the problems the campus community faces. Additional focus group sessions are scheduled to be conducted in June.

"The goal of these focus groups is to identify any current or potential 'pain points' that data specialists are experiencing," said Brandon Bayles, director of strategic analytics and insights. "Even when we aren't able to offer an immediate solution, knowing the challenges our campus community is facing will allow us to assemble a strategic approach that addresses our campus' wide-ranging business needs."

In the first focus group meeting, more than a dozen participants discussed project goals, reviewed the guiding principles and term definitions required for the data strategy, viewed a timeline of what is to come and discussed next steps for participants. Focus groups are also an opportunity for data specialists to give feedback and share their own thoughts, opinions and ideas.

"This group sparked great conversation around data governance and how our campus views it," said Jannette Akridge, coordinator of digital transformation. "Over time, we want to develop a sense of data culture and data relationships that support our overall strategy."

"It is imperative that we have the input of data specialists to better understand what considerations to take and how our strategy can help our faculty, staff and researchers be even more efficient and impactful in their work," Akridge added.

As focus group sessions continue, updates will be provided directly to participants via email. If you have questions or suggestions regarding data strategy or focus groups, please email them to


Brandon Bayles, director of strategic analytics and insights
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