Data is critical to your organisation’s operation, which is why you may have invested considerable time and money into an outcomes measurement system that adequately captures and stores your data. But you may feel overwhelmed by all of the data that you collect – marketing data, website analytics data, program and services data, financial data, etc etc. What does it all mean, how do you use it, and how can you maximise its potential?
Data allows you to do several things. You can:
- Objectively assess organisational performance
- Empirically validate your strategic direction rather than engaging in guesswork for decision making
- Inform how to improve organisational performance
- Yield insights that otherwise would remain unknown
- Consistently learn in real time
But not all data is particularly useful. The value of data is dependent on what you collect and how your organisation utilizes it. This blog will outline 5 ways to start getting more from your data and maximise its value.
1. Set goals
Data is only helpful to your organisation if it is relevant and able to be applied. Therefore, you need organisational goals to make data relevant, so you know what data you need to collect, what measures and metrics you need to use, and how you can use this information to determine performance. So, data becomes actionable and relevant when compared directly to goals.
But it is important to keep it simple to start. List 3-5 goals and determine the data that is required to measure performance toward those goals. Collect data and measure against those goals for a set period of time. Then compare reported data against your defined goals. Keep your focus on those goals and those data sets so the process is manageable. Expand as you become confident in the process.
2. Run consistent reports
Data cannot produce actionable or relevant insights by itself. This is where meaningful reports come into play, where data is aggregated and transformed into useful information. This is why it is so important to think about your reporting needs early on in your implementation process rather than waiting until after go-live, as data and reports go hand in hand.
Aim to produce consistent reports that are relevant to the goals you set and demonstrate progress. Consistent reports also keep you focused on the process of collecting, analysing, and acting on relevant data that is applied to your goals, rather than just collecting data for the sake of it.
So, take each of your goals and identify the single report you need to measure performance toward that goal. Based on the timeline for your goal, schedule times on a consistent schedule to run the report. Draft or develop the report so it can be accessed easily in your database software without having to recreate it every time. Stick to your schedule for the duration of your goal timeline.
3. Devote time to data
Given the importance of data, you need to devote time to data and the database software that stores your data. Devoting time means doing some of the following:
- Managing data quality– Ensure data quality both at the point of data entry (end users) as well as on a consistent basis with data quality checks and quality controls (administrators).
- Reporting– Data needs to be aggregated in reports. As a result, it is critical that you spend time developing, writing, and creating meaningful reports
- Analysis– Take time to analyse report conclusions. This may require statistical analysis, mathematical analysis, or formatting to fully evaluate a set of data.
- Defining action items– After data has been analysed, develop a list of next steps or action items.
So, take the time to schedule your week and devote a certain segment specifically to data related activities – data quality, reporting, analysis, and defining next actions.
4. Be curious about your data
To get the most from your data, you want to be able to learn from it by being curious about what the data is telling you and why.
This means you need to have a desire to probe, dig, and dive deep into your data and what sits behind it to be able to answer these questions. So be curious about your data, find the answers you are looking for in your data and never make assumptions when analysing data unless the answer is supported with evidence from your data. If you can’t find the answer, keep digging until you develop a fully formed explanation.
And if you don’t feel confident working with your data, develop this confidence with experience, which may mean engaging in further training on how to extract and work with your data to make it meaningful so that you have the tools to answer these questions yourself.
5. Implement and take action
Databases, forms, spreadsheets, and notepads full of data are useless unless they are used to take action. So the last and most important way to get the most from your data is to implement identified next actions.
Implementation of changes, improvements, or learning is informed by your application of data to a real-life situation. If you aren’t using data to take action, then the data you are collecting may not be relevant to your organisation.
Therefore, after each review of data, list at least one action per insight. An action could be an alteration to a strategy, running another report and conducting more analysis, correcting a data set that is inaccurate or inconsistent, or prompting a meeting with others to review the data further.
So outcomes measurement software that captures and stores meaningful data can help you be smarter, better informed, and deliver more impact, especially if you use these 5 ways to get more from your data!