2. DATA AUTOMATION
Data automation minimizes and eventually removes unnecessary paper-based manual procedures, custom programming, or scripting – all of which create delays, errors and make result tracking difficult. Paper base and manual procedures are the major causes for delays in Non-For-Profit (NFP) operations. Starting from conception to implementation monitoring, data management processes can be customized and automated to simplify everyday NFP work schemes. Some of the best automation exercises include:
NGOs and NFP organizations are naturally slow in accomplishing tasks for many reasons but mainly due to bureaucratic embeddedness. Workflow automation helps to avoid unnecessary bureaucratic delays by minimizing manual notifications and signatures; a workflow system will remove delays caused by staff displacements due to transfer or change in office. Slow handover processes or a common attitude of forgetfulness in a day to day workflow can be minimized at first and eventually eliminated through automation.
Tracking the performance of a program goal is a typical example of a workflow. Automation can easily link a wide range of program activities leading to a simple reporting of one or more outcomes. Automation will minimize the burden of accounting for various Key Performing Indicators (KPIs) by triggering different functions and events between a chain of actors into a single reporting system. Using email notifications and due dates automation can keep things flowing between projects, programs, departments, and agencies goal tracking.
Data automation can link structured processes and unstructured cases into a seamless workflow to ensure smooth operations across duties and responsibilities of NFP departments and units. The system will leave no room for mistakes and can save your organization significant amounts of money in the short, medium, and long term. Automation simply minimizes the burden to perform tasks independently, it helps to coordinate various tasks and produces better results seamlessly.
Many NGOs and NFP are locked in routine application tools and processes like word, e-mailing and texting which makes the transportation of contents to the right audience at the right time difficult. Data automation solutions unlock these hedges by creating, managing and distributing contents automatically. NFP can assemble specific content for a specific audience - data migrate, consolidate, and integrate into a single solid format of information on premise or cloud.
No organization wants to lose relevant contents; therefore, data automation removes difficulties from content life circles, improves content value and streamlines processes by making content creation, distribution, and consumption more efficient.
Report writing is not an easy task since generating reports require unique skill sets, to provide detailed matching evidences between spending and actual deliverables. Report writing is time and cost consuming.
A report automation tool can cutdown on costs by scheduling an existing report, refreshes and delivers it to specific stakeholders at a specific regular interval. An added value for report automation is its ability to tailor reports to specific style and contents. It does more than text reporting, it automatically generates tables, pictures, graphs, and any other illustration into the result reporting.
A well-designed report automation system should allow you to create and edit from any application – regardless of the programming language. It does not matter how much details you want in your report, report automation captures and delivers on time and in any format – DOCX, WordML, PNG, RTF, XLS, XML, XLSX, VSD, HTML, BMP, TXT, PPTX, PDF, and Barcode Images even Straight to Printer.
Databases are prone to errors and failure, ranging from a simple disappointment to a full catastrophic collapse. A database problem may be due to data corruption, media failure, or user induced errors. No matter how small the problem may be, the management and administration of databases are time-consuming, repetitive, complex, and requires significant expertise.
Automation helps Database Administrators (DBAs) to manage system database installation, configuration, patching, upgrades, backups, recovery, and functional restoration. It supports database developers to maintain native coding, stored procedures, and data definition languages (DDL). Even third-party application databases like CRM can be managed by a cute automation. This functionality is very reliable in reducing database related vulnerabilities specifically for improving the reliability and repeatability of tasks and procedures.
This is a terminology describing a complete set of systemic organizational automation work involving, workflow, content, report, database, and any other hybrid automation. This may involve process mapping of function across departments, agencies, and regions
OUT OF DATA PRISONS
The concept ‘data prison’ looks like this:
- Excessive, confusing, and annoying paper-based files –manually moved from one desk to the other.
- Unstructured and semi-structured typed data - stored on laptops, desktop computers and flash drives.
- Combined unstructured and structured data - on databases on cloud and premise which takes more time and costs to query than to collect a new set.
- Segmented and decentralized data sources – characterized by lack or incomplete availability, often filled with errors, and fatal outcomes.
- Inability to transpose data into useful information – essentially due to insufficient human and technology skills.
- A pile of information but confusing choices on any attempts to access let alone interpret.
- A lack or inappropriate data infrastructural systems.
- Zero level or inadequate manpower skills at all data levels.
Data prisons best describe any business where these data deficiencies are incubated as a routine. For instance, many government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including MDAs programs and project are associated with one or more of these data condition in which civil servants perpetrates as bureaucratic bottlenecks.
During performance evaluation or report writing, data lined staff spend more time trying to access the data, not having sufficient time and energy to engage (understand and apply) it for new insights. Politicians end up getting less valued conclusions that they should, so they simply resort to exaggerations or what is politely called gimmicks.
It is often said civil service bureaucratic routine is inefficient and unproductive but the ‘Civil Service’ does not have to be trapped in any data prison.
However, supposing a government buys into a routine idea that produces desirable outcomes. I will expect the whole proposition of an unproductive routine in the civil service would seize. Routines can be productive; the most productive business such as - Banks, Insurance, Aviation Industry, and the Health sector workers all rely on coded routines in modern technology, so that nothing is left to chance. This suggests that routine in the civil service can be a good thing provided 2 conditions are met:
- Select a routine - preferably a data routine such as the one on figure 1 below. These data steps provide the necessary steps to a full circle.
- Code and routinize practitioners (e.g civil servants).
A framework leading to data freedom is one that enables a linear routine action on evidenced based performance. The above examples of a linear chain of activities ( collect data, process data, demo results, publish results and collect feedback) are essentially connected with performance measurement and will potentially, lay the foundation for evidence-based, result-driven decision making in the public sector.