Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

The Creation of an Integrated Services Division to Advance University Strategic Initiatives

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

The Creation of an Integrated Services Division to Advance University Strategic Initiatives

Article excerpt

Combining the typically siloed services required to support the strategic work of universities into one department results in more effective integrated planning and institutional advancement.


MOST COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES operate within silos. Even those with centralized administrations provide services out of separate functional areas. For most operational needs, this generally works, but if an institution wants to engineer systemic change or create an innovative new program, many barriers exist. Skillful navigation is required to move a complicated project through multiple stages and across various silos to successful completion.

The services needed to effect change also exist in separate entities within a university. To ready an organization for a strategic planning effort, for example, having strong analytical information is critical. Most often data resources reside within an Office of Institutional Research, which, while capable of providing accurate information and analytical expertise, is often removed from the details surrounding a new planning venture. Similarly, many large-scale changes require new spaces or renovated environments, but often space planners are not involved in the early developmental conversations surrounding the creation of a new concept or strategy. Lastly, in academic environments, we tend to value content development more than process implementation, and often very little attention is paid to--or resources provided for--project support. In any complicated endeavor, a department or division requires expertise in process facilitation and project management along with systems to track the necessary action steps and schedules in order to measure progress. Few large-scale academic ventures factor in the need for well-trained facilitation and project management expertise to move from the concept phase to real, effective change on campus.

In a siloed university system, a department, a division, or any campus-wide effort must work across separate entities to access the strategic information and processes necessary to advance a project. This article describes a new model that integrates these services into one division to provide a one-stop shop for institutions as they create, implement, and navigate change.


At Boston College, the traditional Office of Institutional Research evolved from a data-only shop to a full-service organization that provides a complex suite of services to support campus decision makers in their strategic thinking as they work to effect changes in their organizations and across divisions. In 2004, Boston College was one of the last universities to create a formal Office of Institutional Research, but thanks to targeted investments, the office was able to grow quickly and develop key analytical resources. Through a partnership with the Information Technology division, it built a robust data warehouse, a report library, and a reliable cycle of survey and benchmarking information to fuel much stronger and more flexible analytics.

Several years after the Office of Institutional Research was established, it merged with the Office of Space Planning. On an urban campus, space is one of the most valuable resources and often a key factor in any major academic or administrative program. Combining the efforts of the Space Planning team with the analytical data provided by the Institutional Research team created a powerful engine for change.

In addition, a Strategic Services Department was formed to co-exist with the original Institutional Research and Space Planning offices. Strategic Services developed a methodology that supported departments and divisions throughout their program review processes, from the early analytical phases to the creation and implementation of action plans. Over time, with the tools developed from program reviews, the department evolved to provide a wider suite of services to the campus community, including business process redesign, organizational development support, and project implementation. …

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