3 Common Data Management Myths
So it’s a new year and your organization is committed to starting of 2015 with improved tracking of the program data that will help you promote your good work. Great! Whether you’ve been tracking program services on paper for years or have never tracked much of anything but have a brand new data management system you are going to start using, you might still fall prey to some common myths about data management systems. Before you make any big changes in your data management, stop and consider how these misconceptions may be undermining your efforts.
Myth #1: Data Management Systems are costly.
Reality: As with a lot of business tools, it depends on your business! Depending on the complexity of your services, the size of your organization and the number of clients/customers you service, the type of system you need could range from nearly free (like Excel or Google Analytics) to the very pricey (like cloud-based SAS contract model systems). Do not be intimidated by the cost. Organizations that use the cost of systems as an excuse to not track their service data or that use an expensive system as a crutch to avoid really thinking about the data they track could be missing the bigger picture: when it comes to data management systems, size and complexity does not matter as much as how you are using them.
Myth #2: Our expensive, complex data management system is so smart, it will give us great program evaluation measures no matter what data we put in!
Reality: As I mentioned Myth #1, you cannot use your system as a crutch and skip over the difficult but critical work of a complete program evaluation strategy. Sure cars can park themselves and “printers” can make 3-D replicas of objects but someone had to program those machines to do that work correctly. You cannot just let your staff loose in your data management system without a clear picture of what you are trying to capture, why and how (no matter how small your staff team) and expect the data you collect will be meaningful, accurate and/or useful. Which leads me to…
Myth #3: We are using a digital data management system, so our data must be accurate.
Reality: “Garbage in, garbage out”. Remember that. Engrave it on your computers. Tattoo it on the hands of your staff. Ok, maybe not the last one. But really, a computer is just a machine and it cannot, will not be immune from human error. Our minds are unique and work in mysterious ways. I have seen staff make data entry errors I never thought would be possible, let alone made repeatedly. If you do not have a solid plan and procedures for maintaining data integrity because you trust that the system will somehow magically keep the data clean, you will soon find the errors will pile up like lint in a dryer. Before you know it, that lint pile will be big enough to fill a stuffed animal as big as those you win at a carnival. Do not let errors build up or they may render much of your data meaningless.
Making the commitment to tracking valuable service data is half the battle, congratulate yourself on that decision; but do not let that be all you do or you risk screwing up the end game. With some clear and thoughtful goals, tools and processes, you can make that data management system pay for itself through the increased funding it will generate. Contact us today to help your organization get on track with good a good data management process.