The task of drawing up a data collection plan does not readily appeal to some people involved in any project, but in fact a data collection plan is absolutely vital in any project and specifically one which is seeking to effect improvement. The data collection plan will equip any project with quantifiable and measurable data so that the levels of current performance can accurately assessed and then any future improvements assessed and measured.
Without the benefit of a data collection plan, there is no sound data to use as a measuring tool and at best, the result is estimates of improvement or even just plain guesswork.
If estimates or guesswork are used, then the results are weak and the project’s success becomes hard to prove. After all, if you can’t prove that improvements have been made, then who will believe that they have been?
3 Different Stages Of Data Collection
There are 3 different stages or phases that need to be undertaken to ensure an effective and robust data collection plan is achieved. Each of these has several strands, so the process is quite intensive, but well worth the effort.
The 3 stages are: pre-data collection plan, the period of actual data collection and the period post data collection.
In order to secure data that is relevant, accurate, measurable and stable, there are several things to consider before you start the data collection plan. It is a common mistake to simply do a data collection ‘sweep’ and try to collect data simply because it is data and may look impressive, but you need to focus on the quality of the data.
First of all ascertain what kind of data will you collect. Will it be adherence to delivery dates, product production or even complaints etc? To do this effectively you need to establish the ultimate goals for the data collection plan and this will give you an idea of the data that you should be collecting.
Then you need to establish how often you will collect the data. Will it be over a period of days, weeks, or even months?
How the data will be collected is also important, because you need to ensure that it can be easily collected and that the process can be repeated easily, to have a continuous flow of accurate data.
Finally you also need to ensure that the data collected can be easily understood and that there is no risk of the data being misunderstood. This is another common mistake, because those responsible for building the plan do not think about how those collecting the data may interpret findings, so make the interpretation of the data as easy as possible.
During The Process Of Data Collection
When data collection is being carried out, it is a good idea to ensure periodic reviews as a means of ensuring that the data being collected is ‘fit for purpose’ in the sense that it should be relevant and actually provide evidence. If it is not then additional data should be sought and the plan subjected to a radical overhaul. But reviews are also a good way of checking that all is progressing well.
Post Data Collection Process
After the data collection process then the results and findings need to be presented to the relevant bodies. Although this may seem obvious, the findings need to be presented in a way that is accessible for everyone, particularly those who are not familiar with the process of data collection. Appendices can be used to present the ‘raw’ data, but an explanation of the findings may be required in some instances.