Monday, November 13, 2006

Data Collection & Data Integrity

Paper based data collection processes have problems. One of the biggest is the inability of a paper process to ensure that the data collected is relevant, accurate and appropriate. Recently I spoke with a person involved in a data collection project that consisted of 17 data collectors. At the end of the project they reviewed the data on the paper forms and much of it was missing, inaccurate or irrelevant. The project was a complete failure.

The screen shot above shows an example of a data collection application with pick lists and database queries. The data collector is limited to selecting pre-designated service categories. Once the category is selected, then a database query is performed that presents only the services related to that category.

There are many techniques for ensuring the validity of the data collected, but this example shows how you can limit the selection to at least relevant answers.

The other problem the failed data collection project experienced was their inability to review the collected data on a timely basis. The project was over and the data collectors dismissed before the collected data was reviewed and analyzed for accuracy. With a data collection solution on a handheld computer that includes integration to a database server, the data can be reviewed as often as needed and with immediate visibility and analysis.