When done manually, the data collection process can be slow and inconsistent. State agencies often rely on a single point of contact at a third-party provider, who may not follow best practice for submission of that data.
If that individual leaves the organization, it can create a gap in the data collected. For state agencies working to justify their employment first initiatives (EFI), these gaps and inconsistencies are a major stumbling block.
This becomes especially true when those programs attempt to expand, scaling to reach the goals set by administrators in the state. To support these scaling efforts, agencies are increasingly looking to cloud-based data collection solutions.
What the Cloud Offers for Data Collection in State Agencies
Before evaluating what the cloud does for state agencies, it’s important to consider the many issues currently faced by those agencies, including:
- Scalability of Manual Processes – Many agencies still use manual processes in Excel spreadsheets, limited by the availability of human input.
- Continuity Concerns – Spreadsheet ownership is an issue if the main point of contact at a vendor leaves. The wrong version of a file shared via email, data overwritten by accident, or change overlaps can be problematic too.
- Low Participation Rate – When only a small number of providers collect and share data with state agencies, it limits visibility into the program, and hurts the justification of funding.
- Lack of Recognized Standards – Manual processes make it impossible to enforce standards in the data submitted by third party vendors, or the format in which they submit that data.
Cloud based solutions address all these concerns by streamlining the process into a single web-based interface that can be programmed to collect the specific data needed by the state agency.
The Benefits of Transitioning to the Cloud
A web-based interface with data collection features configured for the state agency using it has many benefits, including:
- A Set Number of Questions – Questions asked of the data entry professional can be standardized, ensuring the same information is available for every individual tracked in the system.
- Anytime Accessibility – Data access isn’t dependent on tracking down and evaluating the most recent spreadsheet. It can be accessed anywhere with an Internet connection.
- Scales to Meet Data Needs – The other major benefit of a web-based system is that it can scale to meet the growth of employment programs. It is not reliant on a set number of individuals managing unwieldy spreadsheets.
Not just any cloud-based system will work, however. Because of the unique needs of state government, the data collection tool you select should be catered to government. EconSys has been working exclusively with federal and state governments for more than 20 years and has developed just such a tool.
You can read about how PORT has helped state employment agencies in Alabama and Tennessee address many of these issues and improve their processes and reporting in our case study, Data Collection on Employment Outcomes for Individuals with Disabilities.