Tag Archives: Tableau

3 Tips to Use Your Data to Drive Program Improvement

Nationally, only about half of students who start college actually complete and earn college degrees, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. It is much worse for students who start at a community college or 2-year degree program. This means many students are increasing their debt (from student loans) and not reaping the financial benefits of a college degree and higher earnings. In addition, colleges are losing money when students dropout. It’s a lose-lose game.3 Tips to Use Your Data to Drive Program Improvement

Colleges have been getting increasing pressure from the federal government and others to improve their college completion rates. They have turned to data analytics to better understand how they could intervene earlier with students who might be at risk of not completing their degree and dropping out.

When I first heard this podcast from The Hechinger Report on how “Colleges are using big data to track students in an effort to boost graduation rates, but it comes at a cost” it made me want to listen closer.  As a #datalover and #datanerd, this topic certainly peaked my interest. I am also a first generation college graduate and can personally relate to this topic of college dropouts since many (over half) of my high school peers didn’t finish their college degree.

This is not a new strategy (“predictive analytics”) as companies like Amazon and Google are doing this all of the time with our digital footprint. However, it’s new for colleges and non-profit organizations.  

Georgia State is a case study example of how their university has embraced data analytics to improve college completion rates. Their university now has one of the highest rates of college graduation for public universities in the country, and they have closed the racial equity gap. Students of color are graduating at the same rate as white students at Georgia State. 

So how did Georgia State get there? They used their data to drive and inform program improvement. We’ve talked about this here and here.

The podcast also shares the struggles that other universities face in implementing these changes. It’s not enough to purchase the data analysis software, but you also need trained staff who are able to analyze and interpret the data to take action on it. 

We’ve put together 3 tips to get started with using your data to drive program improvement that’s not only based off of the success of Georgia State but our work with other clients who want to improve their impact.

  1. Have a system in place to collect and track meaningful data. Georgia purchased a data system to help them bring all of their data together and identify patterns. At Transform Consulting Group (TCG) we are big fans of using Tableau Software (see more here and here). We love Tableau, because it can make your data easier to review and understand. We are also adept at using whatever data systems our client has to pull out the information that we need to inform decision-making.
  2. Have trained staff who can analyze and interpret the data. Getting the data from your system is the first step. Then you need to have individuals who know how to identify patterns, ask inquisitive questions and develop recommendations. We are big fans of forming an “Impact Team” at an organization who is trained on analyzing and reviewing your data and can help drive action based on the results. Learn more here.
  3. Have a process to determine program improvement changes. Once you have your data and results, you are now at the fun part – you get to take action on changes to make to improve your results! We find that sometimes organizations don’t have a clear process in place to determine what changes – such as a new curriculum, staff training, client outreach – they will make based on the results. We follow a Continuous Quality Improvement Process using the “Plan – Do – Study -Act or (PDSA)” framework to determine what action steps we will take. Other similar processes might be “Lean/Six Sigma”. At Georgia State they decided to hire additional advisors to use the data to reach out to students at risk. This is one of the many changes they have made, based on their data results, to help students stay on track with college graduation. The goal here is to be intentional on how you will use your data to make programmatic changes and then study the result of those changes to know if it’s working or not.

What are some goals that you are not currently satisfied within your organization? Have you considered how data analytics could help you focus in on improving your results?  Bill Gates said, “Without measurement there is no shared accountability.“ We would love to help you improve your impact through data analytics. Contact us to learn more.

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Are You Data Literate?

Recently the TCG team participated in a data visualization challenge at the Indy Big Data Conference, and this experience has led me to writing a blog on data literacy.  What is data literacy? Merriam Webster defines being literate as “having knowledge or competence”, and being competent with data is a foundational skill we all need in this age of big data.

Now, you don’t have to love math or know how to write code to be data literate. What you need to be comfortable doing is asking what, how, why, and so what of data.

  • What data is being collected? (e.g., age, county, number of individuals with a college degree)
  • How is the data being collected? (e.g., application, agency records, census survey)
  • Why? Especially when it comes to data analysis, don’t be afraid to ask why. (e.g., Why did you focus on this subset of the population? Why were those data points analyzed?)
  • So what? (e.g., How does the number of individuals without a college degree impact our strategy to address this issue?)    

For TCG’s presentation (check it out here), we reviewed multiple datasets provided by the Indiana Management Performance Hub. We had to learn what each variable meant, how the values were determined or collected, and why those variables were important to those data sources. Figuring out the data meant learning about workforce development measures and industry codes. Analysis of the data involved selecting certain data to focus on and incorporating different views and additional data to answer the questions we had. Listing our recommendations answered the “so what” for the data we chose to analyze and present.

Data presentation

Data literacy is very important to the data visualization world as well.  Before making the data “pretty” with charts or data visualization software (like Tableau which we featured in this blog), you have to know your data and know your metrics.  That way when you see your dashboard or charts showing 1,000 current donors with a 25% retention rate from last year, you will know if that is correct. Programs like Tableau (which imports your data to visualize) can’t tell you if you’re creating the right chart with the right variables. It takes the same level of critical thinking that is applied to the data itself.       

Common Mistakes with Data Visualization:

  • Not spot checking data to make sure things are correct (such as population totals).
  • Too much data. More is not always better, and lots of data can be overwhelming and may take away from the goal of the analysis.
  • Selecting the wrong variables. A chart can be created to compare apples to oranges, but it may not be of any value.Data Literacy Tableau
  • Not using percentages when comparing groups with different totals. This is one I see quite often and is a reminder to always question data. In the example below, Marion County (center of map) looks like it has the most young children and the most young children in poverty because Marion County has the largest population. If you look at percent of young children in poverty, other counties show just as high of a percentage as Marion County.
  • Lacking context. Without knowing the source of the data or data totals, the statistics may be less convincing. Industry knowledge is also important to context in order to visualize the most valuable data and to answer “So what?”.  

Not sure how comfortable you are with data? Start with your own! Ask questions and see what you can uncover. Check out some of our favorite sources of data that can add to your analysis. As you dig in, Transform Consulting Group is ready to assist with our evaluation, research, and strategic planning services as well as data visualization training and products. Contact us today to ask questions and learn more!

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Training Your Team

As a new employee (week 8 on the job), I’m learning more and more about Transform Consulting Group. I have found that we don’t stop working where other consultants might.

At other consulting groups, the typical client engagement cycle is this: Research is finished. Meeting is over. Report is delivered. On to the next client.

Client:  Now what?

Consultant:  I wonder what they did with our recommendations.

TCG goes further – we help you implement change.

At Transform Consulting Group we go further in helping our clients implement change. One way we do this is through training our client’s staff.

CLD TrainingJust like no funder wants to adopt a grantee forever, no client wants to hire a consultant forever. We want to make sure that the work we have completed for the client will be sustained beyond our engagement with the client.  

We work with several clients to support their evaluation needs. This might include evaluating a program for a grant, developing an evaluation plan and process, or developing a data dashboard. Evaluation can be intimidating for many of our client’s staff, so we make sure we develop data tools and plans that they can manage and implement beyond our engagement. In order to accomplish this, we might embed a series of trainings for staff throughout our evaluation project.

We are currently doing this right now for the Center for Leadership Development. We have provided the following training topics mainly around analyzing data:

Our trainings include detailed slides, a recording of our training, and handouts. These are all useful tools that can be shared with new staff at an organization.

We also offer trainings on other topics for which we provide services. Some of our popular trainings include:CQI Training UW Central IN

Not only does the organization benefit, but according to research, employees want professional development!  It makes them feel that the company is investing in them and their development, which can increase employee retention.  A win-win!

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand the importance of evaluation and the critical step of implementation.  If your organization needs help developing its staff or would like to engage with a consultant that can help you through the entire evaluation process, contact us today to learn more!

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