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Data Collection Strategy

When it comes to collecting data for an IT project, you cannot simply dive in and hope for the best. Planning a strategy for data collection is a must for obtaining the results most helpful to making your project run efficiently.

Before data collection begins, it’s essential to clearly identify where to direct your focus. Only certain data will appropriately target the problem you seek to address. Sometimes a primary wide net approach to data collection will help pick out information extraneous to your project so you need not dwell on it later. Additionally, accounting for past relevant data will allow you to learn from prior strategies and get a sense of what you’re working from.

Planning a data collection strategy also ensures that team members start off and remain on the same page throughout the project. The problem and expected improvements should be made clear to all team members at the start. Laying out goals prior to collecting data should ensure that the team meets them systematically.

Another reason to plan your strategy lies in time/cost efficiency. By weighing out various strategies, team members can figure out which one will maximize collected data while realistically minimizing time and cost. Perhaps the fastest route to data collection is disproportionately expensive, in which case it may be worth it to spend a bit more time to limit overall expense to the company.

Errors are bound to slip into your data sample, whether you try and plan for them or not. Accounting in advance for this can at least minimize potential error and keep you on the lookout. Planning random sampling, for example, is a simple way to avoid certain statistical errors. Knowing how to monitor the process from the get-go will help you determine the overall effectiveness of your approach, rather than learning too much from mistakes after the data collection strategy has been implemented.

This is where the Data Collection Strategy tool comes in. Used to help focus your approach to collecting, organizing, and explaining data with statistics, this tool considers the target data for your project as well as various methods for assessing it.

The Data Collection Strategy tool helps determine the best method for collecting data and ensures productive follow-up to assess for process improvements. Team members can use a data collection strategy form to apply the tool, which will allow them to keep close track of their strategic process.

Team members should fill out the form after figuring out the data they need to collect along with how and where they can find it. A team member experienced in the decided upon process will collect the data, after which the team will organize and sum up the findings.

The form itself lets the team present a clear picture of the chosen data collection strategy, allowing them to lay out method, data source(s), data types, display options (i.e. histogram or pie chart), statistical tests, and secondary data. Team members will sign off on the form as they complete each task to ensure the process runs smoothly and does not discount a step.

Though this may seem like common sense, many data collection strategies fail to account for details that ultimately slow improvements and cloud communication amongst the project team. This tool seals off opportunity for such strategic errors and prevents ill-informed conclusions.

After all, you cannot learn a thing from irrelevant or poorly collected data.

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About Michael Clapperton

Michael Clapperton is the CTO of IT Sigma. IT Sigma is a SaaS based Workflow and Business Process Management platform. They can be visited at www.itsigmapro.com.  He is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, ITIL V3 Certified Expert and has 20 years of IT experience. He holds an MBA as well as post graduate work…