Governance Part II: Data Management and Your Database

Earlier this year, we published Part I of a three part series on data governance and database management. In our first article, Alex Williams discussed the differences between data governance and database management and the importance of building solid teams and processes within your campus, specifically surrounding your CRM. Continuing that conversation, Josh Henry dives deeper into the nuances of data management within your database.

Success using Slate involves more than building forms, sending emails and reviewing applications. Developing, executing and maintaining a strategic governance model is essential to successful data and database management. Staff and constituents who have a vested interest in your data, the procedures they follow, the agreed-upon policies for data management and your institutional priorities all come together when they are put into practice in Slate.

Data management is both a core component and outcome of your Slate governance model. It is the collection of guiding principles and best practices you develop to maintain accurate and accessible information. These policies, procedures and priorities (and politics) will dictate how data is accessed and managed by your users. 

Data management doesn’t just happen–you have to design it! 

Who “owns” the data you have in Slate? Who has access to data? Who is responsible for designing processes in Slate? Who owns the processes? Who needs access to processes? What data and processes are shared and where is collaboration, and communication, necessary? These essential questions must be addressed by your governance model. And more than that, these answers will influence your data management guidelines and best practices, as well as your database configurations in Slate.

Data management and database management are closely related and even reliant upon each other, but also distinct elements necessary for success using Slate. The ideals and goals for data management are derived from your governance model. Decisions around data management inform database management–how technology will be used. Database management and the technology solutions you employ are also informed by the possibilities that technology affords.

Before designing and implementing database management, remember that technology is not strategy. Rather, technology is a tool to help you execute your strategy. Your goal should be to allow Slate to support governance without Slate (or any other system’s needs) dictating your strategy.

Here are some tips for database management that will help you achieve successful outcomes using Slate:

Establish consistent naming conventions and folder organization

Make it easy for your users to find and identify items in your database. And provide guidelines to ensure that new items users create fit nicely into your organizational structure. Being able to look at a field and know exactly what data it contains, and being able to find the form someone asked to update because you know exactly what folder it resides in, will make your Slate life much easier.

The goal should be that a new user can easily make sense of your database as they begin using it.


Use templates to ensure consistent data collection and adherence to brand guidelines. Event templates, form templates, even query templates, can help ensure that all users start everything with the fields and values that are essential to your process. They can eliminate guesswork, lessen what a user needs to remember and shrink your margin for error in Slate.

Templates also play a crucial role in how you communicate with your target audiences. Creating Deliver templates for specific departments or specific types of communication will make it easy for users to adhere to your brand guidelines when creating communications in Slate.

Did you know? You can override the default color options available in the WYSIWYG editor in database configuration keys. Enter the hex codes for your brand colors so users no longer have to know or look up the codes.


There’s a world of possibilities in Slate to manage user access to records, data and process. Create user roles that reflect access needs in Slate (as opposed to job title) to expedite granting and managing user permissions. In shared environments, use populations to manage the records a user may access, and use Realms to manage the objects a user can access within Slate.

Slate permissions and security function like locks and keys. Almost all items in Slate have a lock on them, and you give your users the keys by granting them permissions. Keep this in mind when developing your user roles: permissions in Slate are designed to grant users access, not restrict it. So start your roles from the ground up, granting what is vital to executing their jobs. Additional permissions can always be granted later as needs become clear.


The tools, processes and strategies you design are used successfully only when users are trained. In addition to engaging your user audiences and providing training specific to their roles and needs, Slate allows you to document processes and procedures within your database. Using Slate Scholar Custom Content, you can add your own, institution-specific documentation to the Slate Scholar lightbulb. Notes and/or descriptions can also be added to forms, rules, queries and more, to provide user context on what and how an item should be used or what processes are necessary in order to make updates.

And take advantage of the internal option on instruction blocks on forms and events. You can provide descriptions, explanations of conditional logic or indicate fields that should not be altered and all of these descriptions will be visible to the user accessing the form administratively in Slate, while remaining completely hidden from the applicant, donor or student completing the form.

Design and adjust your processes to fit Slate

Slate shouldn’t define your strategy or process, but your use of Slate won’t be successful if it’s designed to fit another system. Be flexible as you implement and continue to use Slate, and allow its functionality to inform the decisions you make. For example, knowing the range of possibilities in Slate for granting faculty access to view and evaluate applications will allow you to collaborate with departments and establish a plan that will blend technology with user needs.

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