Innovation has always been an intrinsic part of the culture here at Spark451, but this year, we took it even further with the launch of our new company-wide initiative, Innovation451.

Starting this spring, Spark451 Principal Steve Kerge challenged all employees to come together to identify big needs, propose revolutionary solutions, and ultimately, select which ideas to develop and implement.

Meeting(s) of the Minds

While we were all still working remotely during the COVID-19 shutdowns, Sparklers from every discipline and department got together for virtual brainstorming sessions, during which all participants were encouraged to share their ideas. The only rule—that there were no rules!

After we generated a lengthy list of ideas for potential products, technological tools, and infrastructural improvements, participants voted to select four ideas to pursue further. Once the finalists were selected, the individuals who had proposed the ideas were each allowed to recruit two other employees to help them flesh out their ideas and prepare presentations to “sell” their ideas to the entire company. (Think “Shark Tank,” or as some of us came to call it, “Spark Tank!”)

Following the presentations this summer, the entire company was asked to rate each idea according to the following metrics:

  • Spark451 integration (how it aligned with our culture and mission)
  • Higher-education integration (how well does it solve a problem in our industry?)
  • Attainability
  • Stability
  • Usability
  • Marketability

The Winning Idea

Ultimately, the winning idea was to overhaul how we store and manage data—to move from a warehouse architecture to a data lake. As John Bellina, Director of Digital Services; Ed Flaherty, Client Development Strategist; and Saish Patkar, Senior Data Specialist, explained during their presentation, this massive infrastructural change (and sizeable fiscal investment) will enable Spark451 to easily provide even more robust campaign performance reporting, as well as deeper strategic analysis of campaign performance—both at the individual institutional level and industry-wide. These additional points of reference will allow us to be even more nimble at optimizing performance in real time, and enable us to benchmark performance across the industry, which should contribute to even greater success on enrollment campaigns.

While Spark451’s data team moves to make this bold new vision a reality, the company at large is gearing up for another round of Innovation451. We can’t wait to see which ideas rise to the top next!