Strategies to Organize and Respond to Surveys

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LCV.JPGThis month’s question is answered by Liana Crisan-Vandeborne, Resource Planning Analyst, The Ohio State University.

The ideas, opinions, and perspectives expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily AIR. Members are invited to join the discussion by commenting at the end of the article.

Dear Liana: How can my IR department use project management strategies to organize and respond to publishers’ surveys?

Responding to publishers’ surveys is quite a complex process. It includes a lot more than just sending data to an editor. Therefore, I organize my work using a project management methodology adapted from the Project Management Institute (PMI). Because various project management strategies could be adapted for this kind of work, I encourage IR professionals working on similar projects to review different management strategies and adapt to the ones that they feel more comfortable with and the ones that better apply to their specific institution. Most of them will include the minimum following stages: Plan, Do, Close.

Below, I will explain why I choose to look closely at project management strategies and how I use PMI’s strategies for a typical annual project of responding to publishers’ surveys. These strategies made me focus on the important aspects of initiating and planning the project; how to better approximate timelines for executing, monitoring and controlling various aspects of the project; and how to close and make the transition to a new year’s project.

So, how do I use project management in responding to publishers’ surveys? The following template is crucial for me:

Some of the rubrics can overlap or carry from one another. This template helped me understand how much time and resources I need to dedicate to each phase.

Here are some of my steps:


  • I initiate my project by creating folders on our internal drive for storing and managing files for each publisher survey. First, I group the folders by broad categories (e.g. Distance Education, Graduate, International, Undergraduate, Local). Then I use folders for each year. Within each year, I have folders with the name of the publishers (e.g. ACT_IDQ, Barron’s, College Board). The folders for each survey have the same structure:
    • Original Survey: contains the survey document or screenshots of the survey prior to completion.
    • Data and Other: contains specific data requests, files, or documents used in responding to this specific survey.
    • Completed Survey: contains a PDF or screenshots of the completed survey.
  • Within the folder for each year, I have a master folder called Data Collection Sheets. This contains folders for each of the main functional areas within our institution (e.g. Enrollment, Financial Aid, HR, Registrar) and Excel workbooks for the data collection process.


  • From year to year, I update a massive Excel workbook with all questions asked by all major publisher surveys. I have the CDS questions in one tab, and then the rest of the questions in a different tab. The CDS sheet is filtered by the OSU internal group of respondents. The rest of the sheets are filtered by publisher name in addition to the internal group of respondents.
  • I have another Excel workbook containing passwords for all the surveys, a list of the data providers, publisher contacts, surveys timelines, and timelines for internal OSU data providers.
  • Each summer, I update the master data collection sheets to reflect the new year and make the necessary updates to questions/surveys.
  • Then, I try to meet with OSU data providers to discuss tentative deadlines. These timelines are based on previous year’s data requests assuming that the core questions will stay the same. The master excel workbook gets updated every time I receive new information from the data providers.
  • My Outlook inbox has a similar folder structure to capture the ongoing communications with editors and internal contacts.


  • We benefit from having a cloud-based drive where files like the ones mentioned above can be shared. Completed and sometimes partially completed surveys are posted in this drive, so all the internal contacts can review the data prior to submission.

I hope my example is useful to those IR professionals charged with the task of responding to publishers’ surveys. Besides the steps mentioned above, implementation of a formal project management system allows me and the IR office to estimate the amount of work and time needed to complete this task.


  • K. Powers, A.E. Henderson, New Directions for Institutional Research, Special Issue: Burden or Benefit: External Data Reporting, 2016, Volume 2015, Issue 166, Pages 1 – 116, © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley Online Library ( DOI: 10.1002/ir.20133

Note: The author would like to thank Jay Johnson, Associate Director of Institutional Research and Planning, The Ohio State University, for his contributions to this article regarding project management.





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