State agencies in many cases lack the tools needed to properly manage data collection sharing from service providers on employment outcomes of individuals with disabilities. The gap between the tools being used and the output required means ineffective data evaluation, lack of standards between providers, and lack of follow through from providers who collect data for each state. These challenges include:
Manual Data Collection Processes
Currently, many state agency providers use Excel spreadsheets to collect and organize data. There are severe limitations in using such a system, largely due to the inability to scale. Spreadsheets make it difficult to capture a large volume of data in a standard format, while ensuring all stakeholders have the access needed for reporting.
In addition to a highly inefficient process, spreadsheets present an issue of continuity. If someone leaves the provider organization or the state agency, who owns that spreadsheet? Will it be formatted and transmitted the same by their successor?
Lack of Standards Between Providers
Another major challenge is a lack of codified standards between providers. When using manual processes, different providers can format their data however they deem fit, which can create additional work for agency specialists who then need to either standardize it in some way within their spreadsheets, or struggle with analysis due to the inconsistencies.
Without a central system and standards for data collection, it becomes increasingly challenging to manage how data is collected and supplied to the state.
Inability to Evaluate Data Consistently or Effectively
With a manual process and a lack of consistent standards among providers, evaluation and reporting becomes a burden for agency specialists already tight on time. Not only is data incomplete; but the reporting produced is limited in scope to high-level aggregation. Key insights needed to determine the effectiveness of employment programs is not available, making it difficult to measure program efficiency.
Low Participation Rates Among Providers
Finally, there is the issue of participation rates. When only a small number of providers collect and share data with state agencies, it limits visibility into the program holistically. This presents additional challenges for states whose job it is to justify the funding of these programs based on performance. Incomplete data neither proves nor disproves program effectiveness. If anything, it makes that justification more difficult due to perceived gaps in the data collection process.
How to Ensure Better Data Collection Processes at the State Level
For states eager to improve employment outcomes of individuals with disabilities and show the results of their efforts, a good data collection system is necessary. Technology that enables streamlined data collection, standardized at the provider level, can help to do this.
To learn more about how EconSys has helped to build such systems for states like Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas, download our case study, Data Collection for State Agency Employment Programs. You’ll learn how we addressed these common problems and built a system configurable to the state agency’s needs.