One of the most important parts of strategic goals is choosing the right data to represent your progress. This part is also often the most difficult part. Often goals are not tracked or are tracked by data, that does not represent what’s intended. In this article we will go through some points to ask when choosing data and how to make qualitative data quantitative.
When tracking a goal you don’t need a lot of data, but you do need to carefully select, report, and take action from the handful you choose. Since most data is now available in the cloud, there are thousands of options to choose from. This makes most things possible, but it also makes the task of choosing much harder and much more important. We will go though a guideline on how to choose the best data suited for the purpose and answer the question “What is good data?”.
When choosing data to use for tracking your strategic goal the most important thing to do is to question the validity. Questions to ask might be; Where did I get this data? How was this data produced? Are there any reasons this data might be misleading?
Data is valid when it actually measures what it claims to measure and when there are no logical errors in the drawing of conclusions from the data. When using pure quantitative data, you can be very strict, but when using data that has to be made quantitative before using it – as in the case below – there will be a margin of errors allowed, in which case it will be construct validity.
Data for KPIs
When you’ve set a strategic goal, you will need to decide which data to use. You will need to pick the handful of data and measurements that you believe are most important to the achievement of your goal. Here, you might choose from a never ending list of sites to get your data from, so you need to make sure the data you choose corresponds to what you want to achieve for your organization.
When using data to represent your progress towards a goal, you are most often using KPIs – Key Performance Indicators . For the KPI to be of use, you need to pick data that will be updated regularly enough for you to use the KPI to get an idea of where your company is right now. If the data is not updated you will not be able to act agile.
To calculate a KPI, the data has to be quantifiable. In some areas this might be readily accessible, such as amounts and prices. Here, what you need to take into account is often the measuring units and whether the number actually represents the progress you want. At other instances it is more difficult to access the data you need and you will need to be more critical of the quality of data you use.
Using qualitative data in KPIs
Qualitative data includes virtually any information that can be captured that is not numerical in nature. The aim of qualitative research is to understand the social reality of individuals, groups and cultures as nearly as possible as its participants feel it or live it. Thus, people and groups, are studied in their natural setting. Research following a qualitative approach is exploratory and seeks to explain ‘how’ and ‘why’ a particular phenomenon, or behavior, operates as it does in a particular context.
Though not all research data is quantitative, it might still be of interest for you when setting and reaching a goal. If you use KPIs to measure your progress you do need quantitative data, which is why you might need to translate your data into numbers or get the data in a quantitative way.
One example is Employee Satisfaction. One way that this is often done is asking; “On a scale from 1 to 10, how much do you like this company as a work place?”. This might not be the best way to do is, as the employees answers depend a lot on their understanding of the question and their mood on the time of the question. If this is used as a method it has to be connected to either a box, where the subject can enter a description or a qualitative follow up. If you get too low a number you need to start interviewing your employees or use another form of qualitative data to get a deeper understanding of the numbers. Having made the quantitative assessment first you have a shared point of departure for the discussion afterwards.
When making the questions for a questionnaire, you need to keep in mind the relevance of what you are asking to the person taking the questionnaire. When are they answering it? Who are they? Which department do they belong to? It might be useful to make a questionnaire for each department.
Measuring satisfaction for KPIs you want recent numbers always, but you do not want to ask your employees all the time, as they surely will be annoyed by this.
Thinking about validity for this case you might ask if the questions actually get the information that you want. The informants might have many reasons to answer the question differently than you thought possible.