We love data.  Give us a bunch – or allow us to go gather it on our own – and we’ll roll around in it for hours.  Ok, maybe that sounds mildly creepy.

We talk a lot about the virtues of data, but there is one important caveat – you have to have good data.  Sounds easy, right?

While I’m not going to write a dissertation here on how to set up databases or program data collection forms, I do hope to provide some high level thoughts on the process of data collection (not just the tools):

  • Determine what data needs to be collected. Start with the end in mind – what do you hope to gain from the data?  Also consider what is possible – what is feasible to collect?
  • Create a system. This one of the biggest areas I have personally seen gone astray.  You can have all the databases, software, and forms, but if the data doesn’t get in there right, or consistently, the whole database breaks down.  Develop a simple process that everyone can follow.  Then enforce it.  Where possible, make it automated or at least integrate with other processes.
  • Share success. It can be hard for people collecting, entering, and sorting the data to understand how they are helping the big picture.  Keep them informed with how their efforts have helped and the benefits gained.
  • Review and update regularly. Something not working?  Need additional/different information?  Check your data and processes regularly to ensure you get the most out of your data.

What else has been helpful in getting the right data?