Routine data collection

How can you collect and manage high-quality routine data?

Routine data comprises three out of five types of data: user, engagement, and feedback.

People often overlook it because it doesn’t explain the short or long-term effects of a programme or service. But it is in fact crucial to understanding your impact. It tells you who your users are, how many you’re reaching, and what they think and feel about your service or programme. Without it, you simply won’t know how many of the right group you’re targeting, and whether they’re experiencing a programme or service in the way you expect them to.

This section outlines the different types of routine data you can collect, and how you can use data systems to manage this information.

What is routine data?

Routine data is information you collect from your users habitually.

User data: Information about the characteristics of the people you are reaching. To check whether your service is reaching the intended target group, and tell you about the population you are currently serving.
Engagement data: Information about how service users are using your service, and the extent to which they use it. To understand whether or not you effectively deliver the service to your intended users. Key questions include how often people come? For how long? How engaged are they?
Feedback data: Information on what people think about the service. To establish whether your service gets the reaction you want and whether it is beginning to work in the way intended. Specific questions might include: Do people enjoy the service? Do they find it useful? What aspects do they rate the best/least?

How to collect routine data

Start by reviewing the routine data you already collect and identify any gaps.

User data is often collected when an individual applies to take part in a programme or service via a sign-up or registration form. You may ask someone their age, for example, to assess their suitability.

Engagement data is often collected on an ongoing basis, for example, by tracking visits to an online resource or recording attendance at events. If you host a telephone helpline, it could include the number and duration of calls.

Feedback data can be captured via social media or through surveys. You may have an instant feedback mechanism for a particular service, where people rate their interaction immediately afterwards.

How to use data systems to manage routine data

A good data system can help with:

Data entry: Making data collection easier and more efficient, while ensuring consistency and accuracy

Data storage: Reducing paperwork, while storing sensitive data securely in one place.

Data use: Ensuring data is easily accessible to staff, and can be compiled or aggregated, and presented via reports or dashboards.

In developing or updating a data system, it is important to think about your needs. What data do you want to collect? What do you need the system to do? And how can it be integrated with your day-to-day work? The design and rollout of the system will need to be led by someone with enthusiasm for the task, and preferably relevant experience.

If you don’t already have a data system, it’s worth considering off-the-shelf options, rather than building your own from scratch. Speak to others who have been through a similar process. If you do opt for something new, provide potential suppliers with a detailed overview of your requirements to get a sense of the cost. Be clear about the data you plan to collect, and the outputs you want the system to generate. Outline any ongoing support you may need, particularly if you don’t have in-house IT expertise.

If you already have a data system, it may be possible to adapt it. However, be wary about sticking with a system that’s not right for your needs.

Need help to get started?

The data diagnostic asks 10 multiple choice questions about what your programme or service is, how it works, and who it targets. It then provides a tailored report recommending what kind of data you should consider collecting and how.

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