Outcomes measurement software needs the support of capable people in specific roles with defined responsibilities in order to maximise its potential. This starts with implementation. In most organisations, the implementation team usually includes a project leader, a secondary project leader, and most importantly, functional roles that usually sit beneath the project leaders.
In terms of project leaders, many successful projects have an executive level staff person heavily involved in the implementation process, usually as a project lead. There is additional urgency and better accountability when an executive level role has major responsibilities in the project. An executive’s involvement shows management’s commitment to the process because the executive role is investing their own time and energy in the implementation process, not palming it off to others.
Having another one or two internal project leaders in addition to the executive lead is also useful. This should be the case even if you have an external consultant that is leading the implementation project. There are two reasons why this is helpful. First, it provides back up internal project leadership in case the primary project lead is sick, on holidays, or unavailable. Second, it offers the project lead peer support during the implementation. Both members can bounce ideas off one another and support one another when topics are challenging or complicated. In addition, project leads generally end up having the most knowledge and proficiency with the software after the implementation process is complete. As a result, having two project leads can duplicate internal expertise and knowledge.
It is also important to assign key functional roles that sit beneath the project leaders which should be identified early on. In particular, these include a database administrator, a report developer, and an organisational champion. Having these three different roles is critical because outcomes measurement software can be complex and thus, will require a diverse set of skills that you may not be able to find in a single person. Someone must manage data health, reporting, user support, and administration. Dividing roles spreads out the responsibilities of the system, making it easier to manage and leads to a healthier software system.
So when it comes to hiring and resource management of either internal staff members or external supports like a software consultant, it is important to know what skill sets and capabilities are required to get the most from your software and sustain it in the long term. The remainder of this blog will briefly outline the key responsibilities of each of the three functional roles required for your software implementation so that you can keep this in mind when it comes time to recruit!
1. Database administrator
Database administrators are responsible for managing the software system on all levels and may be one of your project leaders. Tasks will include management of data entry, data quality, database structure and setup, user administration, user support, and overall system health.
Database administrators should attend administrator certification training, keep up to date on changes to the software, and proactively address challenges with the software.
Database administrators should also be proficient in data management techniques including data manipulation in Excel (for exports and imports). Experience with other database software is a bonus, but isn’t critical if the database administrator is fully trained on your specific outcomes measurement software system.
The key responsibilities of your database administrator include:
- Participate in the initial implementation of the software as your organisation’s primary point of contact in the implementation team (if possible)
- Lead ongoing user orientation and training sessions to maintain proficiency with data entry and system navigation
- Maintain the database structure by managing the back-end administration settings, layout, and setup
- Proactively address user challenges by focusing on the long-term sustainability of the software
- Manage data quality by running frequent data quality reviews and audits as well as making data improvements where needed
- Be the primary point of contact for all internal organisational questions and inquiries about the software
- Maintain global knowledge of the software system’s features, especially any updates or upgrades
2. Report developer
Developing reports in outcomes measurement software usually requires someone with technical reporting capabilities given the system can be quite sophisticated, hence this usually requires someone else other than your database administrator.
A report developer will be responsible for two types of reports: operational reports and ad hoc reports.
Operational reports are standard and run on a consistent schedule (like monthly performance reports). Operational reports are generally created and modified every quarter or every six months.
Ad hoc reports on the other hand are developed on-demand. Changing reporting requirements and new questions from management, board members, or users need to be answered with data, hence ad hoc reporting is often a necessity.
A report developer’s key responsibilities include:
- Blueprint and build operational reports as one-time projects on a set schedule (quarterly, semi-annually, annually)
- Blueprint and build ad hoc reports on-demand based on changing reporting requirements within the organisation
- Be a knowledge expert about how data is extracted from the database, which may require interface with the database administrator
- Interpret data and communicate report structures to a variety of stakeholders; know how to represent data visually
3. Organisational champion
An organisational champion is usually someone who has been heavily involved in the selection and purchase of the new software system, and understands its strategic purpose for the organisation. This champion then plays a key role in communicating why the database is so important to the rest of the organisation in order to promote buy-in among multiple stakeholder groups. This may be through information sessions, training, or ad hoc discussions about the benefits of the system.
The cultural champion can be the database administrator or report developer, but is usually a separate person who is in a Senior or mid-level role but also has prior or current experience on the ground so that they can confidently and effectively promote the adoption and ongoing use of the database. A Senior or mid-level manager also understands the organisation’s strategic plan which is helpful to ensure that your database adequately fits into this plan.
Key responsibilities of an organisational champion include:
Maintain the strategy of the organisation and validate the need for the outcomes measurement database within that strategy
- Lead a data driven culture that values data analysis, outcomes measurement, and tracking progress toward the organisation’s goals
- Assist in developing the business case and return on investment scenarios for the database
- Be involved during the initial purchasing decision as well as during annual reviews and assessments of the database
Outcomes measurement software is often a major undertaking for most organisations so you want to make sure you do it right. Creating an environment where the software can thrive is critical, and this can be successfully achieved by assigning key roles early on in the process and maintaining those roles over time, particularly the functional roles of database administrator, report developer and organisational champion. Having key tasks and responsibilities assigned to these roles is critical to promote accountability and ensure your software system implementation is a success. Furthermore, having a team of staff with cross-functional roles from a broad section of the organisation can increase collaboration, allow a diversity of viewpoints, and lead to better outcomes in the implementation process. This is far better than isolating a particular division or department of your organisation, or even a single person as being responsible for the entire project. So, keep key roles filled with people who have the capability and capacity to help your organisation adequately measure program performance, improve service delivery, and track program outcomes so you can clearly demonstrate that you are making a difference!