The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of a Data Driven Plan

Stock graph with upward trend, symbolized with a pennyBy: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA

Regardless of your education, training or love of data, let’s face facts: Organizations are making decisions about the value of the field staff based on data. A solid, data-driven plan is essential. Whether planning for market research, business strategy, a call center, service line or customer-specific program, they all rely on some basics:

A plan for the plan: Know the purpose for the plan before you start pulling and analyzing the data. Develop a focus for the analysis, the key questions you want answered and the sources of information you will access. In other words, create an outline, then a data list; evaluate what’s available, then begin.

Consistency: The plan must look at trends over a period of time. Themes need to be isolated from the “inpatient census dip of the month.” Data should be captured in the same way. And in the case of satisfaction data, the questions and methods need to be the same if they’ll be compared.

Meaningful data: Spend enough time with the data to really understand what it is and what it’s telling you.  There are so many marvelous data sources including claims data that really gives a new look at that old topic of leakage. It is not purely the amount of data, rather can you articulate what its saying? If you’re not good at this, get help from planning, finance or operations. Ask, “What do you see when you look at this trend and do you have any rationale for why?”

Insight beyond numbers: The best plans include a blend of the facts and input from stakeholders or prospective customers. With physician and employer strategy or medical staff development planning in particular, it’s important to talk with the market opinion leaders. Then you can blend hard data with the non-written elements (formed enough to be verbalized) such as intuition, attitudes, perceptions and future plans.

Reality mix: Beyond the data, do a reality check with the key customer groups. Too often, we read a plan that missed an essential cornerstone of the organization—thus corrupting the whole plan.

What does it mean for us? The best plans are viable, living documents that let your organization know its goals, its priorities and how success will be measured. Pretty PowerPoint graphics are only the start. Detail the road map for using the plan to achieve the organizational goals.

While a good plan takes some time on the front end, and the process can be grueling, it’s worth it. Your plan provides an objective evaluation, the rationale and recommendations. It gets the internal parties on the same page, provides real-life examples for the current conditions and, more often than not, will point you in the right direction.


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