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Ten Minute Tech

Collecting Precision Data, Part Two

What is the right system to get your data from the field to the office?

Last week we introduced a couple of different methods for capturing accurate data in the field.  Specifically we introduced using paper and pen as compared to electronic capturing via a field computer.  There are positives and negatives to both of these methods giving each specific strengths and weaknesses.

As you consider using paper and pen you cannot help but be struck by the simplicity of it.  There are no specific skills required beyond being able to read and having legible handwriting to be able to collect data using this technique.  This is the main reason most of my clients use this method.  Almost all operations ubiquitously have someone in their employ who is either afraid of computers or who out and out refuse to use them.  So rather than fight these situations they chose to capture records using a lower tech approach.

Another strength of this method is cost.  There is no lower priced method.  The only cost involved is usually associated with creating data collection sheets.  These can be elaborate or simple depending on how you go about setting them up.  Experience has shown that these sheets should be as simple as possible while still prompting the field personnel to record the necessary data.

A final strength is that the data is double entered.  Initial entry happens in the field by the applicator.  Entry then happens a second time in the office as the data is transferred to the computer.  This double entry actually helps catch many errors due to having the data entry checked two times.  Double entry could also be considered a weakness by some because it requires more labor than collecting data in the field electronically.

Collecting the data in the field electronically comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses.  As stated above the first of which is having the data in electronic form from its initial creation.  While this saves time in the office digitizing the data, it does put a great deal of pressure on the field operator to put in accurate data.  This can be next to impossible for the field staff who are not technically savvy.  In the office, field data entry accuracy requires a specific set of routines to be created and executed by office staff which takes additional time.

Next week we will delve deeper into collecting data with monitors and look into methods for organizing data in the office.

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