In this article, we’ll cover the basics of how to collect data for strategy reporting—including the types of data, data sources, and collection steps—so you have exactly what you need, when you need it. We are focusing this article on reporting of your KPIs (not your projects–we’ll save that for a separate article).
When it comes to strategy reporting, what does data collection mean?
Organizations collect data for a lot of different purposes—accounting, auditing, financial reports, board reports, etc. For strategy reporting, data helps clarify progress toward your objectives. By collecting and reporting on it, you can understand if you’re doing the right things (and change course if you’re not) and apply your resources where they’re needed the most. Essentially, the data you collect for purposes of strategy reporting will improve your decision-making process and increase the chances of reaching your organization’s goals.
Two types of data are used for strategy reporting: quantitative and qualitative data. Thus, there are different kinds of data collection.
Quantitative data can be counted or measured, and assigned a numeric value. Examples of quantitative data would be annual sales revenue, monthly website traffic, and number of leads or employees trained. Because it is numeric, this type of data usually lives in databases or spreadsheets.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that isn’t regularly crunching the numbers to understand its performance, because quantitative data is objective and relatively quick and easy to gather (at least in the initial stages of data collection). But to get a more balanced view of performance, you should also be collecting qualitative data.
Qualitative data is an interpretation of something, usually as a result of observation. This type of data includes ideas, opinions, and behaviors (qualities rather than quantities). If quantitative data shows you’re not meeting project deadlines, for instance, you can gather qualitative data from people involved in the process to understand the root cause. This type of data is useful for telling the story behind quantitative data. In short, it gives context to why the numbers are what they are.
Collecting both types of data is crucial for getting a full understanding of how your business is performing. Whatever collection tool you use, make sure it allows for the gathering and processing of data in both forms.
For strategy reporting, there’s also another helpful way of categorizing data: strategic vs. supporting data. These can be considered subsets of the broad categories above.
Very often, companies try to have data collection points for every aspect of their business in an effort to somehow manage it all. But that approach quickly becomes overwhelming (and most of the data ends up being ignored). In truth, only a few data points are actually crucial for understanding performance, and those are the ones to concentrate on. These are called key performance indicators, or KPIs.
Most other data is supporting data, which imparts useful information about your organization and may help you investigate problems indicated by your KPI analysis. But collecting and analyzing this type of data alone won’t be useful for driving performance.
There are lots of ways to gather information, depending on the type and how you intend to use it. The main sources for strategy reporting data are named below, along with data collection strategies for each.
Note: While you’ll be pulling data from these sources, you need somewhere to put it for your strategy analysis! We recommend that you choose a main data platform (like ClearPoint or a similar strategy reporting software) where all your strategic information will “live.” Without it, strategy reporting becomes cumbersome fast. Why? Because some data is located in databases that are hard to access without the help of an IT person—a prospect that’s likely to cause delays every time you need to report. Plus, you’ll miss out on the benefits of automated data collection, which platforms like ClearPoint can provide.
Having a main data platform like ClearPoint makes data collection simple and quick, no matter where your data is sourced. And once your data is in ClearPoint, it’s so easy to use that anyone can view strategy data anytime, even outside of reporting periods. In fact, organizations we’ve worked with that now use our software say the easy accessibility to data makes managers more inclined to stay on top of their metrics and improve them!
Organizations frequently employ a variety of software platforms that make it easier to manage various aspects of the business. These might include accounting platforms, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and project management tools. These specialized tools hold valuable data, some of which will inevitably relate to your strategic goals.
In many cases, accessing this data is simple. If you’re pulling the relevant data into strategy reporting software, very often that software will be capable of integrating directly with your tools. (ClearPoint integrates with hundreds of other platforms!) That makes for seamless data transfers and simplifies the data collection process.
Spreadsheets are a common source of strategic data; organizations often use them to record financial information, track performance metrics, and monitor project plan progress.
You’ll almost certainly have to collect data points from spreadsheets, but beware: Copying and pasting data, and/or doing manual entry to and from Excel, takes a massive amount of time, and is error-prone. If you’re using ClearPoint, you can avoid this manual work with the help of our Data Loader, which automatically pulls data from Excel into our software.
Customer satisfaction surveys, employee surveys, and more are frequently used data sources for strategy reporting. Such data can provide real insight into how your organization is performing.
Some survey tools, like ETC, can provide easy-to-consume exports that ClearPoint can load quickly. SurveyMonkey and other surveys also create nice Excel exports. Remember that for strategy reporting, you only want to include your summary information and then link to the report for additional data. As a result, many organizations can also track manual surveys and just hand-type the information and then attach a PDF summary of the detailed results.
Very often, employees convey qualitative data via email. This should take place simultaneously with quantitative data collection, to provide context around the numerical information for measures and projects.
Qualitative data collection is more time-consuming than quantitative (for administrators and respondents); the right strategy reporting software should help relieve this burden. ClearPoint users can set up automatic email reminders to team members to make updates—a feature that saves a significant amount of time.
Different types of reporting usually require a combination of all the above data sources.
- Your accounting platform about your budget and expenses
- Your project management platform about timelines and progress
- Email updates from your team about the status of tasks
- Your accounting platform to measure ROI
- Your project management platform to see if project completion times have shortened
- Other platforms used in your workflows to see if their metrics have improved
- Your project management tool to determine key initiative progress
- Your financial applications to see finances for the year
- Your sales application/platform to see if you’re hitting goals
- Surveys to understand customer and employee satisfaction
Specific data collection strategies will vary depending on the tools and data involved. The process outlined below is a general overview of how to proceed if you’re new to gathering and processing data for strategy reporting.
1. Choose your main data platform.
As discussed above, you’ll need to choose the platform that will house your strategic data. This is different from your daily transactional data; for that, you (presumably) already have a variety of tools, like Tableau, Asana, HubSpot, etc. Your strategy reporting software will become your single source of truth for strategy-related data.
You’ll use this main platform to create strategy reports, so it’s imperative that whatever you choose has good integration options (so you can easily import your data), as well as good export and sharing options (so you can create and distribute professional-looking reports).
2. Start with just one KPI.
To get a feel for what you’re doing and how the process works, start simple. Pick one KPI to focus on, or a few that are related and come from the same data source. (Remember, a KPI is an aspect of your business that directly relates to a strategic goal.)
First, determine the source (or sources) of the data you need. A single KPI could have multiple data sources, and it might not always be obvious where the data is coming from. If one of your KPIs is website traffic, your data source might be Google Analytics and/or HubSpot. If the KPI relates to customer data, it might be Salesforce. For revenue data, it might be your company accounting software and/or QuickBooks. The source will be critical to the KPI tracking workflow.
Once you know the source(s), set it up in your strategy reporting software and then activate the necessary data connections.
3. Next, map out your other KPIs.
Now you can move forward with identifying your other KPIs and the data source(s) for each. It’s also a good idea to identify who is responsible for each KPI—these people will help you set up the integrations because they know how the data is organized. (Assigning responsibility also helps overcome a common problem with data collection processes, which is a lack of accountability; it’s sometimes hard to know where the data came from and who owns it.) Create a list of all the data sources and owners you’ll need to track your KPIs.
4. Set up all your data integrations.
The same as in Step 2, you’ll set up the remaining data sources in your strategy reporting software and the necessary connections.
When the process is done right, the time you spend on data collection should be primarily on the front end—understanding what data you need and where it’s coming from. The right strategy software tool should be able to take it from there, so you can focus your energies on the other stages of strategy reporting.
Have any questions about how ClearPoint could be useful for your organization’s data collection process? We’d love to answer them, and show you around our software.