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Are you data-driven?


Monday, 24th June 2019 at 5:05 pm
Mike Davis
Data can either provide you with useful intelligence or create a foggy bulwark to progress, writes Mike Davis, in this article which highlights three levels of data sophistication and depth of process that an organisation can orient toward.


Monday, 24th June 2019
at 5:05 pm
Mike Davis


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Are you data-driven?
Monday, 24th June 2019 at 5:05 pm

Data can either provide you with useful intelligence or create a foggy bulwark to progress, writes Mike Davis, in this article which highlights three levels of data sophistication and depth of process that an organisation can orient toward.

What gets measured gets done. This Peter Drucker quote sits on the front page of the TaskForce Community Agency Outcomes Framework. Measurement can seem an overwhelming task… or a timely call to action.

It could be perceived as overwhelming in the for-purpose sector where we know that IT expenditure is on average less than 5 per cent of annual budgets. This is a daunting statistic, but there are a range of ways to optimise your data and processes without breaking the bank.    

The first thing is to consider current data flow within your organisation and whether it is creating value or just a cost to productivity. Data can either provide you with useful intelligence, or create a foggy bulwark to progress. We also need to consider how we are thinking about data – do we have a data or ICT strategy? How does data improve our decision-making?

There are a number of levels of data sophistication and depth of process and utilisation that an organisation can orient toward. If you are starting from a very low base “light touch” will be a useful starting point. “Deeper touch” is the intermediate of data use, and “deepest touch” is data-enriched decision-making and data supporting people and processes at all levels.

Light touch

At this level most of the information in your organisation is in people’s heads or in “the way things are done around here”. You are having early stage conversations about how data is collected, managed and used. Process improvement is not regularly measured and outcomes reporting is not done in a useful sense.

Your strategic plan is evolving to map a journey towards outcomes measurement and a plan for data use and optimisation. Your executive team and board want to see innovation and sector leadership but your budget may not be commensurate with that goal.

Progression tips:

  • Start to incorporate regular email or digital surveys.
  • Hold staff consultations around data capture, outcomes measurement.
  • Decide whether an internal resource or consultant could lead this process.

At TaskForce Community Agency (TaskForce), we were very much at the light touch stage but invested in the development of a five-year strategic plan in partnership with Social Ventures Australia to help us progress. This involved the creation of my initial role as manager of strategy and impact to implement that plan.

Deeper touch

You have good mapping of your programs and theories of change that explain how your programs contribute to better outcomes. You are following a strategic plan and outcomes and innovation are a core part of this journey.

Part of this journey is becoming more client-centred and you are innovating to ensure that you are understanding your role through the eyes of the client or consumer of your services. You may be working on digitising client feedback and holding more regular consumer feedback forums. You will also be getting a better idea of how your clients use your services and how you can evolve to better meet their needs.

Progression tips:

  • Utilise and optimise client feedback via data capture devices such as iPads.
  • Use concise and well-targeted email surveys that reveal insights.
  • Feed theories of change into a whole of organisation outcomes framework.

At TaskForce, developing an organisational outcomes framework helped us to have a clear shared purpose and understanding of how our programs contribute to achieving our organisational purpose and impacts. This has been a vital tool in helping us communicate our mission both internally and externally.

Our mission to become more client-centred has seen us commission a review of our wraparound model and youth services by experts at the Latrobe University and Burnett Institute, and to implement more processes to seek client input into our service design.

Deepest touch

Data flows seamlessly and in a coordinated manner between clients, programs, decision-makers and executives. You can at a few clicks know the percentage of youth or CALD service users at your organisation and at a certain site, and understand service use patterns to improve them.

Impact reports can be generated regularly from your well-functioning client management and reporting system that help inform strategic direction and performance against clear KPIs and benchmarks.  

Progression tips:

  • Use a well-integrated client management and reporting system.
  • Regular impact reporting helps to track performance against KPIs.
  • Access innovative methodologies to better service performance.

At TaskForce, our progression in adopting and implementing a new client management system was accelerated by sector-wide changes to alcohol and drug reporting in Victoria. This enabled us to select a high quality system enabling us to do custom reporting and generate impact reports over certain periods of time.

We are also excited to embark on new data collaboration with Our Community and their leading data intelligence unit to better understand how our services are used by our clients and how we can better optimise our services for our different client groups. Our Community will utilise machine learning and a range of innovative methodologies to analyse our data and identify key patterns, with a view to service improvement.  

Making the most of your data and becoming data-driven is a journey. It’s a journey that will help you to innovate; improve your client-centricity; and better communicate your organisations journey to your key stakeholders and the wider community.

“With data collection, ‘the sooner the better’ is always the best answer.” – Marissa Mayer


Mike Davis  |  @mikedav84

Mike Davis is head of strategy at TaskForce Community Agency. TaskForce is a not for profit, supporting youth and adult clients in their recovery from alcohol and drug issues in Melbourne’s South East.


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