The Data Sweet Spot – Part 2
Part 2: Who
So you started on “Part 1: What” and began answering the questions I recommended to figure out what data to track. In that process you may have thought “wait a minute, who am I tracking data from? My clients only? My staff? Other stakeholders?” Well, you’ve now arrived at the “who” part of this process. The “who” might seem easy and intuitive to many but organizations can often miss key stakeholders or overlook the importance of integration in their systems, which can either cost them time and money to correct down the link or simply limit the picture their data is able to paint. Though being realistic in what you can collect in the short-term is important, having discussions early on about what you want to collect in the long-term is a crucial part of the process.
The obvious answer to “who” are current clients, of course you want to collect data about them. Tracking the services they receive, information about who they are and their preferences, as well as information about their level of satisfaction is a great start and are rarely overlooked in short term plans for data collection and management. Depending on the nature of your organization or business, employees and vendors are the next clear targets of data collection efforts as they can fill out the other areas of the picture of how your clients are receiving services, answer the “why” to questions about client satisfaction, or just allow you to track details about the other big expenditure of time, money, effort of your organization. Ideally systems you utilize or are considering allow for fairly seamless tracking of data on clients, vendors, and staff but if they do not, considering how you can make those systems connect data between all those stakeholders is an important consideration in any data collection efforts.
Donors or contributors is also a group organizations quickly jump to include in data collection efforts but how often do organization remember to keep a continues stream of information going to donors about the client or organizational impact their efforts are having? Many organizations compartmentalize the donor and client data collection in areas so separate they only come together around big events. Though housing data collection and management in one position or department may not work in all organizations, opening the channels of communication can be an extremely helpful tool in improving donor loyalty, staff resources, and client services.
Beyond the usual suspects, it is often the next layer of stakeholders that are easily overlooked in data collection efforts. Depending on the nature of your organization and its level of sophistication in data collection efforts, past clients, volunteers/interns, board of directors, advisory boards, outside partners, and the local community might be stakeholder groups your organization completely overlooks in data collection. Though, for the most part, none of these groups are likely to be critical to data collection efforts in the short-term, as your use of data for evaluation and improvement develops, you will quickly find that any system that omits these stakeholders is lacking the nuanced view your need of your organization.
Whether your organization has the time to capture data about these other stakeholders now is not critical. What is important is that your organization considers what information would be helpful to track about each of these groups. Do you want to check in on past clients six months or a year after service to get further feedback or encourage referrals? Would tracking the level of training, service and satisfaction of volunteers/interns help you maximize their time with you? Is a semi-annual survey to your board a good tool to help you gage their level of understanding of your organization and their effectiveness as your spokespeople for you? Might asking the local community about their needs and preferences for services your provide help you bring in new clients while also shaping your service improvement plans? And MOST importantly, do your data collection tools have the potential for helping your track all of this information in a fairly cohesive way?
To see how all these questions would play out for an organization, consider your local animal shelter. It is likely they might track information about their staff, where the animals come from, those that adopt animals, and their donors. The shelter could and should also collect information on their volunteers to get a sense for things like where they are recruited from, how they are trained, how long they stay, how/if they stay involved after they stop volunteering. Information about their donors involvement and interests could also be linked to what information they send out regarding their adoption rates, success stories, and shelter needs. Beyond looking at their immediate circle of influence, the animal shelter could gain valuable insight by using email, calls, flyers, and/or tabling at community events to ask organizational partners and the local community about what they view as the value of the shelter, if/when they have referred people to the shelter, how they can improve their visibility and services, etc.
Yes, all that data can be take time to collect, analyze, and discuss but staying aware of your strengths and areas of improvement is critical to the fiscal and programmatic well-being of your organization. Maybe your current system does not have the capacity and/or you have no interest in getting that far into data collection now but remember that switching data systems can be very costly ad time consuming so the phrase “it’s ok, we can switch easily later” should never be uttered without a moments pause to what “easily” and “later” really mean. As with all things in data management land, thoughtful discussions now can save you time, money, effort (and a lot of headaches) in the future.
To learn more about maximizing your data management, tune in to the next parts in the series. For customized data management support for your organization, contact me at http://arboretagroup.com/.