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Higher Education: 5 Ways Master Data Management (MDM) Improves Organizational Hygiene

Utilizing a unified data platform, higher education can successfully tackle the challenges of governance, master data, and data quality that can help leaders make lasting change.

Higher-education institutions in the United States are facing incredible challenges. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, higher-education operating models were under tremendous pressure. Many institutions experiencing declining enrolment, watched expenses outpace revenues and tapped into their endowments to cover shortfalls. And while Federal funds helped, institutions are projecting steep fundraising declines in 2021, meaning fiscal challenges won’t be easing anytime soon.

According to McKinsey, one of the ways higher ed can transform this trajectory is through operational efficiencies:

 “…to operate more flexibly and resiliently in the long term can help institutions emerge on a stronger footing from today’s challenges and brace for those of the future. A true transformation often improves operating surplus by 20 percent or more—money that can then be reinvested into an institution’s mission. But such a transformation requires an intense, operations-wide program focused on improving student outcomes and boosting organizational health and performance.”

Boosting organizational health starts with the basic building blocks – your data. 

Becoming a data-enabled organization starts with understanding why it’s essential to do so and then conveying a sense of urgency to get it done. In this context, higher education operational teams can rely on the latest data to explore, understand, and predict what’s going on and make critical decisions for continuity. 

Accelerating digital transformation can not only improve operational efficiency and agility, it can pave the way to transform organizations with outdated systems into a flexible, data and analytics-driven company for growth into the next century. 

Here are 5 Ways Higher Ed Can Leverage MDM for Improved Outcomes:

Establish a 360° View of Students, Staff, and Alumni

Imagine tracking the entire lifecycle of students, beginning as applicants, through their journey as students, graduating to alumni and to (potentially) parents of future students. Or, for example, tracking an individual who may be a student in one department, faculty in a different department, former student in another, alumna in yet another department, etc. – with one golden record.

Creating a cleansed, de-duplicated, and consolidated view of the people whom the university serves for identity management, account provisioning, and analytical and reporting purposes can help institutions meet their growing compliance, administrative, student access, accountability, and analytical needs, including the data to:

  • Better support and engage students with centralized data to manage outcomes for the physical, academic, and financial health of students in order to intervene before problems occur, reduce dropout rates, manage health outbreaks, and provide support. 
  • Improve connections with alumni and community for outreach and development opportunities with centralized data for marketing initiatives.
  • Ability to track the fluid relationships people have with your educational institution with continuity for development, research, outreach, marketing, and more. 
Supercharge Your Online Learning Model

If the pandemic taught us one thing it’s that flexibility is key. With the major shift to online learning, institutions of higher learning across the globe were forced to rethink their educational models. This switch is not only during the height of the pandemic, but also in the here and now – in order to create flexible learning options for students and teachers, but to assess the revenue potential for online courses. Moreover, continuing professional and executive education is a high priority and a significant source of revenue for all universities. This expanding population with various levels of affiliation and interaction requires a comprehensive solution to provide a better user experience.

With a unified data platform, schools can:

  • Conduct outreach and track participation in all university activities, mailings, social media interactions, and more
  • Provision user accounts to allow near real-time access to an entire online course curriculum
  • Allow greater access to online portals for all resources the university offers
  • Identify degree completion and career advancement opportunities from online course data to further engage learners
Improve Fundraising & Donor Outreach

With such vast quantities of data and different identities for alumni and donors that are often in flux that need to be managed and merged together, a unified data platform can accomplish this. In fact, by making sure every single piece of information about their lifelong journeys is associated with the right ID, creating no duplicates, organizations can have correct and trusted data.

Aligning data management with fundraising and donor outreach strategies not only improves customer support with accuracy of data and records on all learners, it can also mean migrating data from legacy systems to the cloud, to:

  • Improve data quality, consistency, and governance for all departments 
  • Reduce operational overhead for managing multiple systems and data sources
  • Maintain real-time alumni records for donations, professional development, e-learning, visiting faculty positions, and networking 
Compliance with data privacy regulations

Migration of old data and merging records while moving to a cloud-based system has the potential to create unique data governance requirements. In addition, the level of cyber attacks have increased exponentially in the past 5 years, with no sign of slowing down. Protecting personal and organizational data is of paramount importance. With Semarchy’s unified data platform, you benefit from:

  • Robust tools with strong data governance to help educational institutions comply with data privacy laws (GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA)
  • Proper codification to help secure PII (e.g. data masking and anonymization, security-based roles to protect PII) university security requirements.
  • Best practices and data redundancy to reduce fraud and compliance risks 
Inter-Department Reporting & Better Management of Administrative Data

Getting a better handle on reporting across departments like accounting, HR, admissions, finance, financial aid, social work, and marketing (to name a few) is nearly impossible with multiple systems and disorganized excel reports. A user-friendly UI designed for office users with intuitive data entry workflows makes managing all data easier, providing:

  • Simple tools for end users to make changes that the business/departments own
  • Easy-to-manage data integration and maintenance templates 
  • Efficient, consistent, user-driven reporting tools across departments and physical locations for a comprehensive view of financial, operational, and academic health

People and processes are a crucial part of any higher ed organization

With Semarchy’s unified data platform, organizations of any size can adopt a modular approach to implementation based on your needs and create an operational foundation to support, facilitate, and accelerate digital transformation. By eliminating legacy IT systems and moving to a cloud-hosted platform, you can improve operational efficiency, agility, and development.

With Master Data Management at its core, and a collaborative hub for data management and governance across your organization, you can gain more control and achieve the following benefits:

  • Eliminate operational data redundancy costs with a single data management process
  • Manage quality of massive data volumes with a single, trusted hub for learner record creation, consolidation, and maintenance
  • Improve customer service and CX while maintaining continuity of superior service with access to comprehensive student, staff, family, community and alumni data, history, and information 
  • Seamlessly protect PII with strict governance on data access, credentials and compliance 
  • Reduce financial, credit and legal risks, while proactively managing privacy, fraud detection and data encryption with a single software platform for governance, master data, reference data, data quality, enrichment, and workflows
  • Establish custom workflows to meet unique business needs for consistency, accuracy and, completeness
  • Prepare the foundation to support and adapt to changing consumer, learner, and educational institution needs


To help you comply with an ever-evolving landscape, Semarchy gives you the agility to easily capture new data elements or share data with new places – whatever the future holds. Whether you’re building a strategy for online learning, increased financial or physical structure growth, or other changing priorities, the Semarchy unified data platform helps you adapt with a flexible, incremental implementation that allows for iterative changes. Our data platform is a significant, lifelong accelerator for organizations taking steps towards being data-enabled and analytics-driven.

Listen to this podcast as our client National Student Clearinghouse discusses what data quality and MDM are and how best to achieve effective data initiatives with tools such as Semarchy xDM.