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We’re Stuck on the Data Culture – Here’s Why

A guiding principal our group established right at the beginning was that we would work to support a nonprofit’s culture around data right alongside our implementation services.  Our collective experience has shown us the best software an agency can buy stands little chance of success if the agency culture doesn’t support its use.

The private sector illustrates many examples of how a top down management commitment makes measurable organizational changes.  In the book Profiles in Performance, Howard Dresner offers case studies that illustrate how corporate management made commitments to business growth by prioritizing performance data. Of course these studies were about “for profit” corporations but the concept about using data to strengthen operations fits for any business model.

In the HMIS world it begins with the Continuum of Care (CoC) understanding their governance role. The CoC Interim Rule clearly states that all things HMIS are governed by the CoC.  Some CoC’s have gone deep – others can spend more time on the rule and see where they might improve and further benefit their homeless service provider’s use of data to enhance new funding opportunities.

CoC or non-profit performance cultures need not be costly to be effective.  In fact we’ll be the first to say that you should start slow, gain confidence and grow competency as your organization is able to do so.  Starting small is better than no start at all.

Here are three simple ways your CoC or nonprofit can begin moving toward being a culture that values the data:

  • Pick a key report like the HUD Annual Performance Report (APR) and make sure your front line staff (those who will be excited about their successes) understand how to interpret what that report shows and how it compares to that project’s funding agreement. From there encourage staff to speak openly about what would help them better meet stated outcomes.
  • Discuss what performance management might look like in your organization with your board. Soon we’ll post some ideas to help you with that discussion.

Be sure to check out our Team Member Dee Schweitzer’s Case Study.  She has an incredible background in leading the growth of internal data cultures and she echo’s what we all believe which is “management’s decision on what tool to use and how data is analyzed is critical to whether it is relevant in demonstrating effective outcomes”.