Outcomes measurement software can be quite sophisticated, which can make it frustrating and challenging at times. In particular, it becomes more of a challenge when you don’t invest the time and resources to managing and maintaining a healthy software system. This blog outlines 5 common challenges that many organisations often complain about, and ways to get around these issues.
1. The data isn’t accurate, clean, or consistent
The cause of inaccurate, unclean, and inconsistent data varies, and it’s not necessarily poor data quality that is the problem.
If you run a report and believe the data behind that report is inaccurate, ask yourself whether the data behind the report is really inaccurate or if the report is improperly formatted. If the report is improperly formatted or is missing components, it may seem like the data is inaccurate. So, the root of the problem may either be a deficiency in your software’s reporting features or a lack of end-user proficiency with reporting.
Sometimes large quantities of data can also overwhelm users and the immediate reaction to this is to say that the data is inaccurate or inconsistent, but this may not be the case. You should first confirm that the data is in fact inaccurate or disorganised before jumping to conclusions.
Whatever the cause of inaccurate, unclean or inconsistent data, there are two steps to solving this challenge:
- Get a baseline level of data quality – You cannot maintain high quality data if you are always trying to catch up. If poor data quality is an issue with your system, your data needs to be cleaned to a baseline level of quality first before you can move forward.
- Implement recurring data quality reviews – After you achieve a baseline level of data quality, implement recurring data quality reviews. To do this, you can create recurring data quality reports in your system for all records “created” or “last modified” in a certain date range (like last month).
2. Data goes in, but it doesn’t come out
Data is useless unless you can extract it from your system via reports. Reporting therefore constitutes at least fifty percent of the value of your outcomes measurement software. So if data is going in, but you can’t get it out, then you are not maximising your investment in the software.
As outlined in the first point above, there are two primary causes of reporting challenges:
- Due to deficiencies in your software’s reporting features and functions, the system is unable to design, format, and develop the reports you need.
- Your organisation may have limited proficiency with reporting which leads to an inability to design, format, and develop the reports you need.
In order to get around this challenges you need to consider the following:
- If it’s deficiencies in your software’s reporting features, then it is important to identify exactly what those deficiencies are. You may be able to overcome these by using external reporting tools like Excel, where you can export raw data from your software system, manipulate the data, develop calculations and formulas, and create visual graphs in Excel. If this is not possible, you may need to consider another software system or add-on.
- If your organisation has limited proficiency in reporting, then it is important that you either build internal capacity or access external capacity to fill the gap. Whilst this may be costly at first, not being able to report is probably costing you more than the cost to access these additional resources.
3. No one knows how to use the system
Staff turnover can greatly impact the sustainability of your software system. If a single person is responsible for the software system and that person leaves, the system generally sits idle. The time, energy, and resources you spent training that person were significant and in one instant that entire set of knowledge is gone.
Low user proficiency can also be brought about through inconsistent and infrequent use of the system, lack of user support and guidance, no buy-in to outcomes measurement or data management, and using multiple scattered systems.
There are four potential solutions to this challenge:
- Regular training – develop capable users with regular training, which should be held at least once per year at a minimum and more frequently if staff turnover is high.
- Encouraging or requiring consistent use – consistent daily, or at a minimum weekly, use of the software system should be required in order to build user confidence with the software system.
- Have multiple users and/or administrators – your organisation takes on significant risk if you have one person dedicated to using, managing, and administering your software system, particularly if that person leaves the organisation. Spread out that risk by having multiple users or administrators of the software.
- Develop user guides and manuals – most outcomes measurement databases require extensive customisation to suit the needs of an organisation, including changes to data structure, field choices, layouts, report formatting, and administrator preferences. Your software provider’s help documentation will not outline these specific customisations, so if someone leaves the organisation, the specific knowledge on your system is lost. Therefore it is important to create user guides and manuals that describe how your system is setup and how it should be used so any new staff can get a head start in getting to know your software system.
4. We can’t define what we are getting for the cost
Directors and Managers may commonly ask – what are we getting for the cost? Outcomes measurement systems are intended to help your organisation save time, money, and stress by helping you increase performance, streamline operations, and improve efficiency. So, if you don’t feel that, then you are not getting the most from the system.
The solution to this challenge is to conduct a return on investment evaluation. This is outlined in our blog “5 ways to measure Return on Investment (ROI) for your outcomes measurement system” and is summarised below:
- Assess the benefits – write down all of the ways you feel the software system helps you. Benefits may include any of the following things:
- Increase revenue
- Decrease costs
- Increase available time for productive activities
- Decrease time spent on unproductive activities
- Make your organization “smarter”
- Assess the costs – write down all of the costs associated with the software system. This includes the monetary cost as well as the time and effort you put into managing, using, and maintaining the system.
- Analyse the costs to benefits – Is there an imbalance one way or another? Do the benefits outweigh the costs or vice versa? If this gives you enough information, stop here and take action from the results. If not, you may need to enlist a trusted consultant to help you brainstorm actions that you can take to correct the imbalance and increase the benefits.
5. We are at breaking point, it’s time to switch
You may have reached a tipping point where you are so frustrated with your existing software system that you are ready to find a new one.
Although it may be the right decision, it isn’t always the ultimate solution as switching to a new system doesn’t necessarily solve the challenges you are currently facing.
So, to solve this challenge, you need to be very specific on “why” you are at breaking point. What are the specific causes? Emotions may be running high so it is important to calm down and “ground” yourself before making big decisions to switch, stay with, or improve your current software system. You can work out the reasons why you’ve hit breaking point by conducting an evaluation of your current system. SQI has a helpful Data Management System Health Check that you can complete to facilitate this evaluation.
Once you have completed this evaluation, if you ultimately decide that switching systems is the best solution, make sure you consider everything before making that leap. SQI’s ebook on 12 steps to finding the right outcomes measurement system can assist with this, along with the associated worksheet which helps you to effectively evaluate several systems side-by-side to ensure you are making an informed decision.