Here at Spitfire Analytics, we have specialist experience of working with universities and colleges to implement robust planning processes.

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There is a wealth of data generated within higher education – understanding how to exploit all of the information available is crucial to the success of any institution. Students create a data footprint during the course of their time at university and this can be used to optimise future provisioning around students and staffing, which then feeds into financial planning.

The ability to predict the number of students attending each course during an academic year is crucial. Student numbers are the primary driver for both staff planning and financial planning: students need lecturers and facilities; students pay fees; they attract government funding; ultimately they are the bedrock of any institution.

It is possible to approach student planning from many different angles, from calculating attrition rates and predicting how many first-year students will attend the second year of a given course, to applying top-down restrictions such as course size limitations due to lecture theatre availability. Fully utilising available data allows for actionable decisions to be made.

Staff planning flows from student planning – it is vital that universities have sufficient faculty staff to teach their students and that these members are used efficiently. Future planning is only possible with a full awareness of the current staffing picture: is it possible to introduce a new course with the current headcount? If not, where will hires need to be made? What is the financial impact of this?

Like all companies, universities have financial planning processes. How dynamic, accurate and timely these plans are will be linked to the system and methods of producing them. It’s clear that student and staff planning will be key inputs into any financial model – they drive the fundamental variables within the businesses’ resources.

An accurate set of data is a good starting point for financial planning but being able to use that data to show something useful can be complex. Universities generally have excellent data sets, stored in a central data warehouse. This data is commonly analysed with spreadsheets as part of a complex planning process requiring input from many sources.

When using a tool like IBM ® Planning Analytics, base data for reporting, analysis and planning becomes centralised. Everyone within the business has access to a single version of the truth, leading to more consistent and valuable planning outcomes. Inefficient planning cycles are vastly improved by user inputs entering the system directly and showing an immediate impact on the numbers produced; the time consuming, manual element of the process is removed. Custom workflows can be built to further aid the planning cycle and provide insight into who did what, when.

Frequently, planning systems are not set up to accommodate change such as new courses, new departments or campuses becoming available; course fee and structure changes; or changes to the way governments fund students. Using IBM® Planning Analytics, the planning system can be built with flexibility, business growth and change in mind meaning that any changes can be handled efficiently without a negative impact on the planning process and cycle timings.

Our data-driven approach to the design and build of systems incorporates the vision of education providers to clearly report at the levels where information is required; IBM® Planning Analytics removes the custom, manual elements of existing planning processes and complex planning processes can be implemented much quicker and with more accuracy.

Contact us now to find out how IBM® Planning Analytics can benefit your college or university with real-time analysis and targeted information. We are mindful that universities and colleges must choose technology according to their budgets and we provide a range of solutions to suit all requirements.