Giving Compass’ Take:
• Stanford Social Innovation Review discusses why making sure your organization captures, synthesizes, and communicates data consistently is worth the time.
• Such a coordinated effort isn’t easy, but this article gives some practical advice on how to get everyone on the same page, from top to bottom. Is your own team equipped in this area?
Socrates is noted as saying, “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” This premise should dominate how mission-oriented organizations communicate with the rest of the world, but it’s arguably even more important to clearly define terms internally—especially when it comes to operating metrics and outcome data. Too often different departments use the same metric terms but ascribe different values to them.
The problem comes to a head when organizations need to do inter-departmental work or analyze trends over time. If the definitions of metrics are inconsistent, it is difficult to isolate data points during analyses or properly capture them in the field. This results in information gaps and inaccurate data, and has broad-ranging implications for how organizations build and enhance their operational infrastructure. There are instances where re-establishing the meaning of a key metric requires significant change. For example, it may require altering the technology stack so that a nonprofit can track a client journey through the organization, or it may require reconfiguring on-boarding and training for field staff. Metrics are not just numbers on a spreadsheet — they represent actual trenchwork and exist to efficiently communicate about and validate an organization’s progress toward its mission …
Here are five best practices for organizations looking to maximize the clarity and completeness of their data:
- Take time to define the terms that compose all metrics, no matter how basic.
- Leverage credible third-party resources.
- Map how the organization acquires each data point and at what frequency.
- Incorporate vetted terms into the organization’s vernacular.
- Ensure that senior management is engaged.
Read the full article about the beginning of good data by Dave Policano at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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