Are you drowning in a sea of paper work? Are Post-It notes extending beyond your desk and on to your computer screen? Too many centres today continue to use post-it notes to record internal waitlist requests. External waitlists tend to be stored separately in folders on the shelf. The more technically-minded centres are using custom built forms to capture data direct from their website into Excel.
Whether you are a big group with multiple centres or a smaller independent centre, it is worth considering your data strategy.
Start by asking these questions:
1. Do we have adequate access to our data?
When we (EnrolNow) start working with new clients we find that access is usually inhibited by either:
- data being housed in paper based forms / offline, or
- whilst the data has been captured online, it is held within an outsourced software platform who provides inadequate access to the data (eg. no download facility)
Either way, without access to your data it is difficult to implement business improvement strategies.
Example: With EnrolNow validating your waitlist ensures care requirements on file are current. Without ease of access to email addresses, family details and current requirements, it is near impossible to ascertain if your waitlist is still interested in care, or if their requirements have changed
2. Are we making smart decisions about the way we store data?
One simple change is to ensure each field is stored in an easy to use format. Let’s say you are capturing your waitlisted children in a spreadsheet (which can be a great way to keep all your records in one place). Make smart decisions about how each piece of data is stored. Some examples:
- Record the child’s date of birth rather than their age (to ensure you know their current age at any date in the future)
- Try to avoid recording preferences as comments, but rather distinct data fields such as a separate column for each day.
- Ensure key contact data is a mandatory piece of data collected in clearly labelled fields
3. Can we create efficient ways of updating data?
Too often we hear of centres who have multiple stores of data for different purposes.
Example: Customer and attendance records are stored in the CCMS, but when you try and get an email campaign off the ground it’s not easy to locate the right email list for the campaign.
In part, this problem should be solved by your software providers. At EnrolNow we are advocating for better collaboration between software providers within the industry and believe that the childcare industry can be better supported than it is today.
In absence of these integrations, here is my advice
- Think about how many places you need to keep one piece of data updated and whether it is required. Then, establish a “source of truth” data and update it on a regular basis. This should be the platform that enables you to download your data effectively. Example: email addresses are stored in EnrolNow and can be downloaded to create a mailing list at anytime (avoid duplicating work by keeping a separate excel sheet of emails)
- Continue to work with your software providers to ensure they understand the criticality of integrations to meet your needs
- When selecting software solutions, ensure you are considering their willingness and aptitude to build integrations
I believe the childcare industry in Australia needs to get back to basics when it comes to data. There is so much talk these days about “Big Data”. Big Data can drive better decisions and actions and also unlock amazing new business opportunities. However, before we get too far ahead ensure your data is setup for effective processes.
Data strategy need not be complex. Data strategy is not all about “big data” and complex analysis. To start your way on a path to a considered data strategy that sets you up for success you just need a clear idea about what data you have and the how you want to use that data.
Up next: Data Part 2: Analytics and Insights to help you understand your childcare business.
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