5 Tips to Improve How Your Business Collects Data

By The GoCanvas Team on January 22, 2022

Companies rely on collecting data in order to operate. In a fast-changing world, companies that focus on streamlining and improving their data collection processes will be able to do more. The good news is that it’s become easier than ever for businesses of all sizes to convert their workflows to digital processes, streamline tasks through automation, and take advantage of real-time analytics. 

5 Best Practices for Data Collection

Focusing on your business practices for data collection will help you scale your business growth and productivity in 2022 and beyond. Here are some best practices tips to improve how your business collects data from the field and how to make the most of it in the office and anywhere else you need it.

1. Convert Processes Over to Digital 

A great first place to start with data collection is to audit where your business uses paper forms. If you have a high volume of paper forms being used for operational tasks, this can be an opportunity to convert these processes over to digital forms instead. When thinking about data collection, it’s important to make sure that information collected is easily accessible by the teams that need it. Paper forms can be a lost opportunity, with data that is siloed and difficult to roll up for analysis. 

The takeaway: Consider moving to digital forms instead of paper to capture data from anywhere on a mobile device and instantly have the information available online to utilize.

2. Leverage Software to Improve Productivity

Once you decide to bring your processes online, the next important step is to make sure you select the right software to power your business. One common challenge for companies is when they adopt tools like excel sheets, google sheets, word documents, and other similar types of basic online tools. While these applications are great for certain tasks, they aren’t always the right tool for collecting data on a large scale, across multiple people and teams. So while the information technically lives online in a spreadsheet, it’s still limited in your ability to report on that information or it requires you to wrangle information together. 

There are many tools available to help with field data collection and analysis. For example, work process software is designed to rapidly collect information from the field and automatically roll the information up for reporting purposes. 

The takeaway: Not all software tools are created equal. Consider investing in software that supports productivity and avoid tools that rely on manual workflows.

3. Standardize How Data is Collected

Once you decide on digital tools to help increase your productivity, make sure to consider how you are collecting information. Standardized data is an important concept and the basic idea is to ensure you are collecting data that is consistent and accurate. Luckily, there are many features built into data collection software tools that help ensure your data is standardized. Features like drop down lists, required fields, and auto populated fields are some of the ways to ensure that forms are filled out correctly. Here’s an example of how these features help with data consistency:

  • Drop down lists. In this example, you would give a pre-set list of options for people to choose from when filling out a digital form. Leaving an open-ended field leaves room for interpretation, but features like drop-down lists help to promote consistent answers to form fills.
  • Required fields. The option to require data ensures that information is not skipped over on the form. If information is missing from the form, it creates blind spots in your data and the information collected becomes less useful for reporting. Digital forms that require fields help promote complete data.
  • Auto-populated fields. Many times when people are filling out forms, information is already known or exists in another database. The ability to pre-populate known information in digital forms allows you to shorten the time it takes to fill out forms and ensures data is pulled directly from your customer database or similar system.

4. Integrate Disparate Data and Automate Tasks

Disparate data is one of the greatest challenges for companies. You have gone through all of the trouble to bring processes online, but now data lives off in different systems and there’s no way to easily connect information. When selecting software to help your business, consider how you need to integrate data that is captured from digital forms. For example, you may want to connect to an accounting system for billing or payroll purposes, or you may want to integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) tools to update customer records. 

The takeaway: Instead of manually pulling together disparate data sources at the end of the week or month, consider the possibility of integrating your data collected. This will help you avoid data entry tasks and other manual processes that are easy enough to automate with the help of software tools.

5. Align Data Capture with Analytics and Reporting

The final best practice to consider is how you think about analytics and reporting. You want to make sure that the information you capture is easily accessible for analytics and reporting purposes. Analytics tools have become widely available for businesses to use and getting to useful reporting is easier than ever with modern software. Consider not just the collection of data, but how this ties into your goals for reporting on information. 

The takeaway: Improving data analytics capabilities can help you uncover trends and make data-driven decisions that result in improved productivity, cost savings and increased revenue.