Why collect data?

To inform a decision
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Mark Complete

Oh, the Data We Collect

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The modern business environment is awash in data. As technologies and artificial intelligence continue to develop, companies have begun capturing and analyzing more and more data. The purpose of gathering all these data is to understand customers so that businesses can better meet their needs. We gather data to provide information for making decisions about future directions or change needed for continued success.

Gathering data or data collection is defined as the process of gathering and measuring information on specific variables in an established systematic fashion, which then allows us to answer questions, evaluate outcomes and make predictions about future probabilities and trends. Collecting specific data help us confirm or deny assumptions that are made. If change is being communicated, data provide the “why” for the change and will support the path forward.

Collecting the right data and using it for improvement is essential to increasing performance. Collection of accurate data is essential to maintaining the integrity of the process of making informed decisions. Being vigilante about presenting data accurately is critical, as well as being cautious about making predications as you analyze the data.


Collecting data has a specific purpose. The type of data collected, and the tool used for collection is determined by the issue, problem, or challenge to be addressed. Data can be collected through specific measurements, surveys, focus groups, or large data sets supplied by external sources. The type of data collected is determined by the question to be answered.

To protect the credibility and reliability of data, information should be gathered using accepted data collection techniques. The following steps provide an outline for the process of collecting and using data.

STEP 1: Identify issues and/or opportunities for collecting data to meet a need to be addressed. What is the focus of the research? There could be multiple questions or issues that surface. Carefully determine the primary question that data will help answer.

STEP 2: Select an issue or opportunity to address and set goals based on the issue. It is important to have one goal that the team or organization wants to achieve. What data is needed to help us know what our current state is so that we can set a challenging goal to support continuous improvement for the organization?

STEP 3: Plan an approach and methods. The approach or method is determined by the data needed to measure achievement toward the goal. Those who will be involved in the data collection and the tool needed are determined by the research question to be answered.

STEP 4: Collect data. Parameters and protocols for collecting data are set in advance of collection and followed carefully.

Now we must review the data, analyze the data, delineating what is learned from the data. Analyzing the data can be complex, depending on the size of the data set and the methods used for collection. Before beginning the data collection, determine the analysis will be internal or external.


Once the results are gathered and the analysis is accomplished, it is time to use the data. The following are recommended steps for using the data to create an action plan.

  1. A summary report of the data is created and shared with stakeholders.
  2. Discussions with stakeholders are scheduled to provide more information about the results.
  3. Harvest wins from the results and celebrate those wins.
  4. Identify gaps or barriers from the results/data.
  5. Decide strategies that might be used to reduce gaps.
  6. Set a challenging, but achievable, goal for reducing gaps identified in the data.
  7. Use the goal, strategies, and owner of the strategy to create an action plan for improvement.
  8. Determine how this action plan (goals and strategies) will be monitored and assessed.

If the organization decides that more information is needed before moving to goal setting and action planning, then the process for collecting data should be replicated. Use what has been learned from this first collection opportunity.

Data are important for plotting the path for improvement. The “path” is only as accurate and dependable as the data used. Be vigilante about the parameters for collecting and analyzing data. Don’t jump to conclusions. The data provides information. We make assumptions and conclusions from the data, which is why it is important to continue the discussion after the initial collection.


Displaying Data

One caution for the results report and the sharing of the data would be to give careful thought to the way data are broken out when displaying rates of change. Often change that appears small in a graphic display may be more significant and some changes displayed as large may not be significant. Be careful when using graphic displays to describe the accuracy of the data.

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