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Our Challenging Nonprofit Data Environment

We can do data better!

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Teddie Pierce – Founder Decipher HMIS

When I was hired by the Sonoma County Community Development Commission in 2011, my first assignment was to “straighten out” the HMIS.  No problem I said – I’ve done management software since 1986!

With an undetectable eye roll I wondered “just how hard can this be?” and  “just what is the BIG DEAL about an HMIS”?  The first two months (eons in software years) I existed in an optimistic bubble of naivety but eventually I was able to grasp how loaded that request had been.

Simple intake questions like Gender had seven selections all of which were documented by a unique federal definition.  Poorly functioning intake processes were costing service providers thousands of dollars and robbing time that could be better spent with clients. Key reports commonly relied on by private industry decision makers were either not available or not understood by the stakeholders provider services.

The insights I gained as an HMIS Coordinator led me to comprehend the vast complexities in our efforts to end homelessness and other social problems.  I’m become officially addicted to creating systems that promote efficiency of effort and excellent reporting and I’ll be teaming with others who feel the same commitment.

We have ground to cover.  We need to develop data environments that our staff and stakeholders can be comfortable operating within so our data holds value. Our stakeholders must trust that reporting will improve our programs because in the end it all matters to the people we serve!

The professionals at Decipher HMIS are highly committed and we all agree on one thing.  There are better ways to ease the burdens of data collection and better ways to energize stakeholders about data’s role in solving social problems.  We’ll be blogging our thoughts around data collection, data cultures and yes even the influence of political will as we build our business.

If you are interested in finding out what Decipher values in our own work please read our Position Statement.  We’re excited about helping you transform your data from mandates to solutions!

Most Sincerely,

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Teddie Pierce has worked in database design and software implementation since 1996, and most recently as the HMIS Administrator for the Sonoma County Continuum of Care where she designed and implemented data collection and custom systems for Coordinated Entry, HOST Street Outreach, Safe Parking and other homeless programs.