You may be experiencing some challenges with your ETO database that is making you question the suitability of the software for your organisation. The good news is that many of the common challenges organisations face with ETO are straightforward to fix. This post will outline 5 of the most common challenges and ways to tackle them.
1. Don’t trust the data
The most common two causes that contribute to a distrust in data are poor data quality and improper report formatting. The latter will be addressed later in this post, but poor data quality is evident when data is inconsistent, improperly formatted, or not updated or relevant.
Manage distrust in data by improving data quality using two data quality procedures:
- Establish a baseline level of data quality– You cannot maintain high quality data if you are always trying to catch up. So you need to spend some time cleaning your data to a baseline level of quality first. This may mean adjusting your settings in ETO to ensure accurate data entry – see our post on Data Quality Tips for ETO Touchpoints.
- Implement recurring data quality reviews and controls– Data quality reviews will depend on your data management requirements, the data you collect, and the reports you need to run. At a minimum, data quality reviews should be implemented on a recurring schedule (weekly, monthly, or in real-time) to monitor data entry procedures. There are numerous standard reports in ETO that can assist with your data quality reviews.
2. Data goes in but you struggle to report on it
A huge benefit of ETO is it’s ability to generate standard and custom reports from the data that exists in your ETO database.
However, reporting in ETO can be challenging if you don’t have an internal reporting capability that is responsible for building, formatting and modifying reports and continually developing their reporting skills. So, when users are overwhelmed with ETO reporting or have no training on the report tools, reporting is often sidelined and staff turn to Excel, Access, or other software they are comfortable and familiar with.
If your organization has limited proficiency in ETO reporting, then it is important that you either build internal capacity or access external capacity to fill the gap.
Option 1 – If you want to build internal capacity to build reports, then someone at your organization will need to attend ETO Results certification training and become an ETO reporting expert.
Option 2 – If building internal capacity is risky (because of turnover or transition) or impractical, then you may consider outsourcing reports to an ETO consultant certified in ETO Results and Reporting.
3. Data entry is a burden
Good data entry is required for good reporting, so reporting will suffer if users don’t enter data. Users generally don’t enter data when this task becomes a burden on their time and energy and they no longer see ETO as a system that can help them do their work better.
Data entry usually becomes a burden when:
- Every piece of data imaginable is being collected, whether it is valuable in reports or not
- Data is being entered in multiple systems causing duplicate data entry
- ETO specific data entry workflow tools and shortcuts are not being used in your data structure and design
Streamline data entry with report-relevant data – rather than add elements for the sake of adding them, be sure to build forms and add fields to forms that are “relevant” to your reporting requirements and will be most useful to make decisions and take actions. Streamlining removes irrelevant fields, forms, and data entry screens, which simplifies data entry so it does not have a major impact on users’ daily work.
Eliminate duplicate data entry with defined integration processes – Minimize duplicate data entry by defining processes that integrate multiple systems, such as using batch uploads or exporting records from ETO on a consistent schedule to sync multiple software systems. You can also use the tools and capabilities already available in ETO, such as cross-referencing elements, to minimise duplicate data entry. Use clearly defined manual “people” processes to get data from one system to another or evaluate ways to efficiently export and import data from different systems. If funders require that you use a certain system, you may also talk with them about providing specifically defined reports from ETO instead of using their data and reporting systems on top of ETO software.
4. System is used inconsistently
Inconsistent use is commonly caused when staff are not proficient in using ETO because they have not been properly trained or they haven’t embraced the software because they don’t understand its strategic purpose.
A helpful hint that your ETO system is being inconsistently used is when staff are still utilising other systems like Excel or Access to supplement their data management in ETO.
Inconsistent use is a major challenge because it creates gaps in data and reporting. Over long periods of time, it can lead users to reject ETO all together which ultimately results in a negative return on investment in the software. In these instances, you may need a complete re-implementation of ETO, which can be costly and burdensome on your organisation.
User training & support – Regular training that enhances user knowledge and confidence is the best way to overcome inconsistent use. Training should be held once per year at a minimum and more frequently if staff turnover is high. You may also consider regular refresher training. Having capable internal users who can act as champions of the software and support and encourage others to consistently use the software, can be a useful strategy to ensure the software is embraced by all.
User guides – Support users with documentation on standard tasks and processes, particularly those where inconsistent data entry is prevalent or where accurate data entry is required for important ETO reports. The best user guides have illustrations and step-by-step instructions where users can build their own ETO experience at their own pace.
5. You don’t have the right people responsible for ETO
Staff transition and turnover are major challenges for organizations that use ETO software, especially if you have relied upon a single person to be responsible for ETO, and that person leaves the organization or moves to a different role. In this situation, your ETO system may sit idle resulting in staff eventually rejecting ETO altogether.
In addition to staff turnover and transition, an ETO system can fall apart when the primary ETO lead has too many responsibilities to manage ETO effectively.
So, it can be very challenging to maintain, sustain, and maximize your ETO software without the right people in place. ETO requires a robust structure of supports from the right roles within the organisation to operate effectively.
You can solve this challenge by adopting several important supports:
- Have multiple administrators– Spread out your risk with multiple administrators so that you don’t have one person responsible for managing the software. In this way, if one administrator leaves the organisation, this will not cripple your organisation as you will have a knowledge backup in your other administrators.
- Outsource your database administration – You may wish to outsource your ETO database administration to an external consultant which may be less expensive that paying for several full-time employees to act as administrators.
- User guides– Your ETO software system is unique with customized data structures, field choices, layouts, report formatting, and administrator preferences. It is important to create user guides and manuals that describe how your system is setup and how it should be used, as your specific customizations will not be documented in Social Solution’s help manuals. In this way, if someone leaves the organization, the knowledge on your specific system is not lost and other staff can pick up this knowledge quickly.
Conduct an ETO Software Assessment
To solve any challenge with ETO you need to understand why you are at breaking point and what are the specific causes. You can do this by conducting an ETO software self-assessment – download our self-assessment guide to help uncover specific challenges. Then use the adjoining assessment worksheet template to generate a list of action items to improve your ETO database.