Over the last few years, large-scale digital data analysis has been widely adopted in the social impact universe. Socially-conscious companies, foundations, nonprofits and impact investors representing a broad array of sectors — from education to emergency response — have embraced the potential of robust data analysis to improve their decision-making. However, as impact-focused organizations begin to invest in data management, the line between effective data sets and too much data has become paper-thin.
To maximize the value of data, it’s critical that organizations implement an effective and intuitive data standardization strategy. Good data management is a necessity for modern organizations and a prerequisite for growth & expansion.
Achieving data standardization can be a daunting task, but successful organizations can rely on this four-step process to make it more manageable:
- Conduct a data source audit to get a clear picture of the types and nature of data supply points;
- Brainstorm standards to format and synthesize incoming and existing data;
- Standardize data sources in order to ensure that new data is clean and usable; and
- Standardize the database so that existing data complies with the new standards.
Standardization can help any organization stay on the right side of the line by combining information in a database and presenting it to users in a consistent, uniform way. In other words, it allows us to compare data sets across multiple departments without manual cleanup. It is also a crucial part of impact analysis because by enabling “collaborative research, large-scale [data] analytics, and sharing” of tools and strategies (OHDSI). These improvements help organizations identify ongoing trends and best practices, eliminate inefficiencies as they arise, and reduce administrative overhead.
Simplified, accurate, and reliable centralized data is essential for benchmarking progress and strengthening decision-making. It also enhances data integrity by cutting out the artificial outliers and inefficiencies associated with “messy data”. Data standardization frees up time once dedicated to redundant data correction and reconciliation of inputs from scattered sources. By eliminating unnecessary data-related tasks, organizations can devote more resources to creating meaningful impact.
Benefits of standardization
Data standardization can eliminate duplicate data and better measure project performance, all while saving time.
For example, even seemingly simple ‘data rules’ like ensuring there are no address abbreviations (Rd as Road, St as Street) can help sort through addresses easier and remove duplicates. For organizations providing COVID-19 support to hard-hit communities, having a normalized set of addresses can reduce confusion and help quickly determine the most efficient way to deliver supplies.
Without a clear, normalized, and easy way to understand data, data collection is rendered ineffective. Data standardization is an essential practice that ensures the integrity of an organization’s data.
Checkout our previous article on data standardization and remote work: Remote Work & Data Standardization: Why The Social Sector Cannot Wait
If you’re interested in learning more about best practices in data standardization for organizations in your sector, please feel free to reach out to Anish Nagar (firstname.lastname@example.org). Anish is the CEO of Corecentra Solutions, a software company providing purpose-built digital solutions for socially conscious and outcomes-focused companies, foundations, nonprofits, and frontline government agencies.
Corecentra provides advanced digital tools for organizations to manage, monitor, and report their social performance and impact. We help socially-conscious companies, impact investors, foundations, nonprofits, and frontline government agencies manage portfolios and programs, aggregate and analyze data, and easily report outcomes to key stakeholders. By seamlessly integrating program management, budgeting & finance, stakeholder engagement, predictive analytics, and impact assessment, our products empower organizations to increase their social impact and deliver a quantified view of social performance to investors, donors, beneficiaries, employees, and communities.
Our Emergency Response & Impact Management (ERIM) platform allows organizations to efficiently manage a wide variety of pandemic-related projects, including economic support programs, community health initiatives, medical supply efforts, and philanthropic activities. Instead of waiting for data to trickle in from legacy systems and processes, leaders can use ERIM to track results and make data-driven decisions to help communities in real-time.