How Sentient Can Help and Empower Your Institution

This page highlights some of the major areas where Sentient can improve the operation of an institution. Please visit the browser-based version of SCM for a complete list of its features and benefits.

Transparency, stakeholder education, and improved shared governance

One of the challenges of a complex organization is that only a small portion of its employees, usually the upper administrators, have a holistic understanding of all of its components and how they interoperate. Conversely, as administrators rise within an organization, they may lose sight of the find details of day-to-day operations. Sentient is designed to change that by providing an intuitive interface to rich and comprehensive information about the institution’s structure, relationships, resources, metrics and data that all employees can access and understand. In higher education institutions this is particularly important as we ask our faculty, staff, and students to participate in decision making through the shared governance process. The intuitive information access provided by Sentient transforms this process from one that is often contentious and dominated by ignorance, opinion, and rumors, to one that is based on a mutually shared understanding of the institution and its operational data.


  • All stakeholders will have a better understanding of the institution, its mission, goals, and performance, including how to find information, resources, or help from the right person or office.
  • Constructive input from stakeholder groups will result in better decision making and the partnership with shared governance will improve.
  • Stakeholders will feel empowered and have a greater influence on the institution.
  • Pervasive data availability will stifle the rumor mill.
  • Institutional culture will, over time, become more trusting of leadership and management decisions.

Holistic functional modelling

A comprehensive map of an institution that includes organizational structure; the mission, responsibilities and operational capabilities of all offices and departments; personnel and their roles; committees and demographic groups; physical plant and its allocation; processes and procedures; resources and how they are accounted for; services and products; assessment and performance metrics and data; plans and proposed changes, is much more than a document – it becomes a functional model of the institution.


  • For administrators the SCM provides the “view from the balcony” that enables them to conceptualize and appraise all the complex, intertwined operations of the institution in one place and easily determine the performance of its individual elements.
  • Managers of organizational units will gain tools to increase effectiveness and efficiency. Team members will have a better understanding or their roles and the roles of others within the organization.

Knowledge informed decision making

The analysis of data produces information. The integration of information with relationships creates knowledge. This process usually occurs within the human brain. The Sentient Concept Map emulates this associative process and therefore it can contain knowledge and not just information. In fact, the process is often referred to as mind mapping. Knowledge is critical to the decision-making process. Not only does the data supporting this need to exist, but it must also be easy to find quickly when it is needed. The associations inherent to the SCM make data easy to find and use. In addition, dependencies between metrics are mapped within the SCM. This means that one metric can be followed to its contributing metrics which are in turn mapped to their contributing metrics, etc. This makes it easier to understand all of the components that may be contributing to a problem, identify and correct the dysfunctional element. For example, the six-year graduation rate may be improved by retaining more students from the first to the second semester, a downstream metric.


  • Data will make it easier to make the right decisions and those decisions will have a greater positive impact on the organization.
  • Stakeholders will gain a greater understanding of the basis for a decision and therefore be more supportive of it.
  • It will be easier to identify the root cause of a problem.

More effective assessment and planning

Two of the most complex processes that higher education institutions commonly engage in are accreditation self-studies and strategic planning. The selection of appropriate metrics is a critical part of both of these processes, and often the most challenging aspect of them. For assessment the metric data is used to support claims that standards have been met whereas for planning they are used to determine if tactics are being effective and whether resource investments are justified. Ideally, the metrics are shared across both processes and many metrics used in the planning process correlate with accreditation standards.

Institutions can be blindsided in these processes because they may not know what they do not know. They also may not have thought of the most effective metric to measure an elements performance. For example, what is the best metric to measure the efficiency of course scheduling by department chairs? Has the institution even considered measuring this? Sentient addresses these issues by providing a vast library of inter-institutionally shared metrics that can trigger these considerations and can be adopted by an institution.

Sentient is a powerful tool for presenting assessment results as it enables mapping of claims within a self-study report to standards to metrics to live data. It is also a powerful strategic planning tool as it enables mapping of mission/vision statements to goals to objectives to tactics to metrics, etc. Metrics can therefore serve as points of integration between the assessment and planning processes. In addition, a backward design process can be adopted that uses metrics as the starting point to generate tactics and objectives.


  • Self-study teams, operational and strategic planners will have a greater impact on institutional evolution.
  • Institutions will adopt and invest in more appropriate metrics.
  • The self-study and strategic planning process will become integrated and mutually supportive.

Change management

People are uncomfortable with change. This is often based on fear of the unknown and a sense of loss of control of their environment. In addition, they may feel a sense of loss for something that they may have invested considerable time and effort in that is now being abandoned. Changes that have already occurred and that they are unaware of, especially in areas of the organization with which they are not familiar, can be very disruptive. Sentient provides flags that signal to users where change has occurred within an organization. Flags are also provided for changes that are being considered and for which input is being sought. These flags are aggregated at the root of the map which provides a quick access to where change is being implemented or considered anywhere within the organization.


  • Managers gain a better sense of the impact a change may have on an organization before committing it. Proposed changes can be modelled to ensure all stakeholders understand what is being proposed and the impacts it may have.
  • Encourages the development of a change management culture which engages stakeholders in the change process and prepares them in advance through education and training.
  • Institutional culture will, over time, become more trusting of leadership and management decisions.

Reduced duplication of effort

Managers often know that the project that they are working on has probably been tackled at at least one other institution. Sharing resources and perhaps even institutional models between members of a university system or even with institutions located in another country, would significantly increase efficiency and the likelihood of success. Sentient provides mechanisms for finding similar institutions, sharing resources across institutions, and a classification system for practically every resource type used in higher education which makes it easier to find exactly what an institution needs.


  • A rising tide raises all boats.
  • Initiatives implemented and resources developed at similar institutions are more likely to be successful.
  • Frustration from reinventing the wheel will be reduced.