Data makes the invisible, visible. From supporting the most marginalized communities to measuring the full impact of your programs, data can empower all levels of your organization to achieve their full potential. Nevertheless, gathering high-quality, clean data—not to mention storing it in a secure, compliant, and interoperable format—can be a daunting task. Unfortunately, too often organizations don’t have access to the right data or proper visibility into existing data. This makes understanding the importance of data and realizing its potential a persistent challenge.
With the proliferation of new tools and resources available to capture and synthesize data, it can be hard to know how to start compiling usable information and actionable insights. The most important first step to leveraging your data is to understand what type of data is being collected, how it’s being collected, and the risks associated with poor data collection and management.
Exposing the Invisible
Unknowingly, you’re probably already collecting a fair amount of data about your activities. In fact, data can be found in many of the tasks that are done on a daily basis. However, it might “live” in various applications and handwritten notes filed away by individual team members. Every employee, contractor, trainer, and volunteer is simultaneously acting as a data collector. By amassing thousands of points of information about the communities they work with, they not only help beneficiaries, they work to improve the effectiveness of the programs they are working on as well.
Data, then, must be thought of as the entire process of collecting, linking, cleaning, enriching, and augmenting internal information (potentially with additional external data sources), both offline and online.
One of the best ways to organize and access data is to digitize everything. After all, it is impossible to improve what you cannot measure. Taking offline interactions and information and bringing them online offers a distinct quantitative advantage. Digitizing customer and beneficiary interactions provides a wealth of information for marketing, sales, and program development. At the same time, digitizing internal processes generates data that can be used to optimize operations and improve productivity. Furthermore, hard data can be used to help reliably quantify the effectiveness of a program and organization.
Types of Data
When discussing data collection, it’s helpful to outline the types of data that are often collected. Data is typically collected in the following formats:
- Active data: user generated / created data collected through text fields and inputs
- Passive data: system generated data automatically collected “in the background”
As data generation and collection grow in volume, data frequency and relevance will become even more significant. Defining certain requirements based on particular use cases will help ensure that only relevant data is captured.
In combination with data from third-party sources, there is a whole wealth of knowledge to be analyzed and protected. However, there are also inherent problems with data collection, which can cause issues with data quality.
Potential Problems When Collecting Data
Not knowing where or how data is being collected can lead to issues with proper analysis and the quality of data being stored. The reliability of your data is brought into question without appropriate visibility into its source. Reliability is the key concept by which data can be used to inform decisions. When data is unreliable, you run the risk of making poor decisions which will only harm the organization in the long-run.
Problems can also arise when teams use multiple different solutions for data collection, many of which don’t integrate with one another, creating duplicate data sets or incomplete data sets. Faced with limited capacity and resources, many organizations turn to free solutions like Excel or Google Forms. However, every step added to the process presents a risk for data duplication, omission or exposure. This disconnected and unacknowledged risk is often where failures, data breaches, and loss of data quality occurs.
Data collection also impacts how sensitive data is stored, identified, and ultimately protected. Organizations that collect and use personal data bear legal and ethical responsibility for the handling and protection of this data. However, many are unaware of this responsibility, de-prioritize it, or believe they lack the resources to comply with the complex and nuanced requirements of applicable data privacy rules.
Protecting Sensitive Data
One of the most significant challenges posed to organizations by data protection law is simply a lack of awareness. New policies and regulations have expanded data protection laws around the globe in recent years. Since so many documents today are stored online, many people assume the new laws apply only to electronic files. But consumer rights to the protection of their personal information apply just as much to paper documents as electronic ones. Understanding what data is being collected, how it is collected, and how the regulations apply to the security of that data can help ensure compliance.
How the Cloud Technology Can Help
Cloud computing refers to technologies that use the Internet as a platform to give users nearly ubiquitous access to highly scalable, flexible, and powerful computing resources through online services that are hosted in off-site data centers. Anyone who has used a search engine, online email service, or social network has already experienced a version of cloud computing. Today, however, organizations are rapidly moving “to the cloud” to make their operations more effective, efficient, and more secure.
Cloud computing can help organizations achieve their cybersecurity and privacy goals in the following ways:
- Focusing resources. Cloud Computing is highly scalable and flexible, making it an accessible and affordable solution for almost every organization. By leveraging the versatility of cloud computing, organizations can use less time and finances to maximize value.
- Simplifying governance. Because applications and services are hosted in data centers that are operated and maintained by the cloud service provider, cloud computing reduces the burden on organizations to install, maintain, and update hardware and software.
- Leveraging existing cloud security. Perhaps most significantly, the cloud also delivers an immediate step change in security for organizations, without a large upfront investment. This is valuable for both cybersecurity and data protection compliance.
The benefits of clean and efficient data collection extends beyond organizational optimization and can significantly impact a business’s ability to execute their goals. Data digitization increases an organization’s capacity to become more efficient by deploying modern, resilient technology solutions.
CropConex is an online solution that streamlines data collection for the coffee supply chain. The online platform offers scalable and powerful online solutions that decrease overhead and increase data security.
Want to know more? Contact us to see how CropConex can help you bring your offline data online.