The quest to harness data can feel like a never-ending battle. With the right approach, however, you can meet your objectives faster and with unmatched accuracy.
This subject is nuanced, but we’ll carve out some bare bones to help you envision the potential of employing the right data collection tools.
We’ve grouped the pillars of data collection into four (non-linear) levels. After that, we glance over some tips to ensure the security of your data. Finally, we uncover the hidden gem – no spoilers.😉
Did you know? Approximately 2.5 exabytes of data are created every single day.
Let’s get to it.
The Data Advantage
Sound data is at the core of any good strategy. Everyone knows this, yet all too commonly, people assume that simply gathering more data will unlock the insight they’re after. Sadly, this doesn’t work. Without sensible dataflows, all that data can quickly cascade into chaos, so making sense of it becomes a nightmare.
Simply put – data is useless when we don’t manage, process and utilise it effectively.
An executive summary report from NewVantage Partners revealed that 91.9% of the participating organisations claimed to have achieved measurable value from data and analytics investments in 2023.
So, what’s the secret?
- A well-defined data strategy.
- Involvement of skilled staff.
- Employing the right data collection tools.
The above ingredients form the trifecta of a genuine data advantage, and it all starts with how you collect your data. That’s why getting the right data collection tool is vitally important.
All things considered, less IS more – especially if your organisation is still in the early stages of data maturity.
On another note – balancing ethics with efficiency in data collection is a stroll across a tightrope. It’s crucial to respect privacy, transparency, and consent when collecting data of any kind. Transformation, for this reason, is safer played from the inside out.
Right, let’s unpack your plan of action.
The Game Plan
As always, it all begins with setting a clear objective. What process would you like to improve? Why? What KPIs are involved?
From there, assess your current data infrastructure. Try to pinpoint all the ways it’s falling short of your ideals. Are you handicapped by integration issues? Is subpar data quality impeding accurate analyses? Much of the time, data issues can be resolved internally, perhaps with the help of a third-party consultant. Yet, sometimes, your tech stack itself needs an upgrade.
So, now you know your objective and the gaps in your system. What’s next? Get clear on what data you’re after.
If operational data (stock flow data, for example) is what you need – consider the volume & velocity requirements too. How much data will you collect, and how often? Some operations require rapid data processing, like IoT-integrated environments. For these, you’ll need systems that seamlessly hook into each other to allow your databases to auto-update as data flows in.
All of the above will help you scout out the perfect data collection tool.
If you’re still logging stock levels with pen and paper – start by digitising the process with mobile stock-taking apps. If you’ve got something similar in place but need to double down on human error – consider barcode or RFID tech.
Your process is unique, and we’re in no way in the position to recommend a clear-cut road to improved operations… But we’re here to give you a taste of the possibilities.
We suggested earlier that you should approach transformation from the inside out. For the next section, we’ll follow that logic.
Level 1: Digitise Your Admin
Everyone hates admin (unless that’s your thing, of course.) The game begins with digitising your base paperwork. Imagine this as your first move in a game of chess. You’re laying the foundations for what’s to come. Payroll processing, invoicing and billing – all those run-of-the-mill tasks can be simplified by going paperless.
Mobile-assisted data collection is your friend here. Keying updates directly into your system with a smartphone will save time and allow your team to share updates instantly.
Most of our clients use us to lighten their administrative load. Our mobile app builder gives them the flexibility to digitise whatever admin process burdens them.
Curious to see what this looks like? Glance over some of our app examples below.
Basic Order Form – ship order information straight to the office.
Detailed Timesheet – capture accurate time entries from anywhere.
Service Invoice – capture & send service invoice data instantly.
Employee Leave Requests – speed up your HR workflow.
It’s wise to start with the paper process that saps the most time and effort. For many companies, the filing process itself consumes an unreasonable amount of time. Imagine what your team can accomplish when manual organising, scanning & document management becomes a thing of the past. It’s worth thinking about.
Level 2: Master The Flow Of Operational Data
Now, the game intensifies. On this level – you want to harvest as much operational data as you can – then put it to good use. Like controlling the flow of moves in a chess game, you’re aiming for strategic dominance. Integrating data from various sources (production, maintenance, logistics, etc.) enables better decision-making across the board.
Mobile apps work wonderfully here because they’re not limited to on-site activities. Tools like Appenate allow offline-capable data capture – perfect for remote-working technicians.
Rassaun Services Inc. is a great example. They used our platform to build an app with over 250 functions to support their data collection needs, from equipment inspections to job forms. They were innovative with our platform, too – transforming it into their central resource hub.
You can dig into their story here.
“We can guarantee that a process will be executed the same way and that the output will be delivered with the required information, every time.”
-Braedon, Russaun Services Inc.
Level 3: Create Dataflows To Bolster Compliance
In this phase, you’re protecting what matters most – your king. Your goal is to create dataflows that make it easier to nail your business objectives while following the rules. By automating compliance workflows, you’ll save time, sidestep fines and earn the trust of everyone involved.
Before their switch to digital forms, fault resolutions took literal weeks. Now, logging pre-start inspection data, sharing, and sign-off takes less than an hour. Impressive? We think so, too.
The best thing about drag-and-drop app builders? You don’t need to scour the web to find a dedicated compliance tool. Custom workflows allow you to adapt your apps to serve new safety objectives – without being charged.
That’s right. Scaling your apps is free! With us, at least. You only pay for every additional user. We never limit you with data caps. Have a new app idea? Get cracking without cost concerns.
Here’s a snapshot of our Process Line app template.
Level 4: Perfect Client-side Data Collection
It’s time to secure your checkmate. On this level, you’re deepening your understanding of your customers – the lifeblood of your success. Uncovering their needs, preferences, and online behaviours can help you curate unforgettable touch-points.
Our platform is not ideal for collecting data outside of usual workflows, but the market is flooded with options that serve that purpose. If you’re only starting – a simple CRM platform, a few short surveys, and real-time conversations can teach you plenty about your customers.
This blog post by Nutshell explores a few more ways to get the job done if you’re interested.🙂
Guard Your Data
Your company data is a treasure trove. In the wrong hands, your operations can be seriously compromised. Alongside the right tools, you must ensure your data is responsibly handled and stored.
We won’t cover internal protocols here. Instead, we’ll explore the security features of reliable data collection software.
Here are some things to look for…
Encryption: Your vendor should use robust encryption protocols, like SSL/TLS, to secure data transmission between users and servers. Data at rest should also be encrypted to safeguard stored information.
Data Access Controls: Look for features that allow you to control and restrict who can access and modify collected data. Role-based access control (RBAC) is essential.
Secure Authentication: Choose software that supports robust user authentication methods like multi-factor authentication (MFA) to prevent unauthorised access.
Data Ownership and Portability: Read the fine print to ensure you retain ownership and control of your data.
Regular Updates and Patch Management: The vendor should provide regular software updates and patches to address vulnerabilities.
Third-Party Integrations: If your data collection software integrates with other tools or services, ensure these integrations adhere to best security practices.
User Training and Support: Check if the vendor offers comprehensive user training and responsive customer support to assist with security-related inquiries or issues.
Privacy Policies: Review their policies and terms of service to understand how they handle data and whether they share it with third parties.
Before we move on, if you have a lot of sensitive data flowing in and out – consider getting cyber security insurance. More on that here.
The Hidden Gem
There’s more to data collection than strategic effectiveness and resource efficiency – something else is at work. You’re nurturing the potential of an even more advanced tech environment. When your data foundations are rock-solid, employing IoT, AI & robotics will be much easier.
The best part? It triggers a cascading effect. Let’s illustrate this with a hypothetical use case.
A smart manufacturing plant set out on a quest to fortify its data strategy. Ditching paper for good, they moved on to a fully integrated digital ecosystem. Barcode-compatible mobile apps automated stock logs. Strategically placed NFC tags granted workers instant access to critical documents, and before long, sensors monitored plant conditions in real time. Finally, they could ensure an optimal environment for staff and stock alike.
The data flowed seamlessly—accurate and free from silos. Yet, this only marked the beginning.
With their data strategy firmly in place, they were ready to explore the next frontier – Artificial Intelligence (AI). They implemented predictive maintenance systems to perfect their inspection schedules. Soon after, they employed automated storage and retrieval systems to minimise safety risks for their employees.
The results were nothing short of spectacular. The plant achieved manufacturing excellence with minimal downtime, reduced operational costs, and impeccable product quality.
And all of that started with a single goal – perfecting data management.
Hopefully, we didn’t run off the map with our example… Let’s recap for a second.
- Start with a clear data objective.
- Identify the gaps in your systems.
- Find the right tools to support your objective.
- Master the data collection process.
- Digitise admin tasks that take up the most time.
- Streamline operational data capture.
- Create data capture flows that serve your compliance goals.
- Collect client-side data to understand your customers.
- Ensure the privacy and security of your data.
Still struggling to get on top of your data collection efforts? Give Appenate a shot. Our custom app builder will give you a headstart. With an extensive list of integrations, we’ll hook into your existing systems and pave the way to reliable data management.
Dive in and create digital twins of all your existing forms for free! With your trial, you’ll receive world-class support and training to get you on your feet. If we don’t fit the script, simply cancel your subscription (no strings attached!)