No matter the industry, the ability to make data-driven decisions is a key factor for growth. At its core, data-driven decision making is a process that involves collecting data, analyzing trends, patterns and facts and then using that information to make informed decisions. When organizations move to data-driven decision making, they place strategy in the hands of information, not solely intuition.

On the surface, implementing a data-driven decision making process can seem like a tall task, and it might be difficult to figure out where to start. However, by implementing some basic habits and taking small steps, child care and community education programs can be well on their way to unlocking the power of data.

In this Illuminate post, we outline how child care and community education industries can use data to improve their business along with the steps needed to implement a data-driven decision making strategy.

A small investment in analysis leads to big returns

There's huge opportunity in data. In today’s child care and community education industries, using data to make informed decisions can help programs in a variety of ways. Regardless if you're a data expert or a beginner, it optimizes your operation. It solves problems.

Staffing efficiently and effectivelyanalyzing trends in your previous child care season can improve how you and your team effectively staff your upcoming season. Reviewing items like fill rates, profitability, community feedback via surveys, and more help you optimize your program.

Optimizing rate and schedule typesusing data to map enrollments versus actual attendance from previous seasons to make improvements to how you price your different schedule types.

Analyzing registration trends—when are families registering for your programs? With certain reporting, you can identify patterns in registration and tailor your registration windows to meet those popular dates/times.

Tracking down lost revenueauditing past due accounts helps programs identify gaps and maintain a steady stream of revenue.

Assisting real-time communication—it’s important to always know, in real time, which students are attending your programs and at which sites. This reporting capability helps identify those who might be affected and send out the proper communication.

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Find a place to get started

It’s OK if you don’t love data or feel comfortable working with it. The main thing to consider when implementing a data tracking or reporting system is that it takes time, and you’ll learn lessons along the way. The goal is not to get it right from the start. It’s to get started.

A good place for programs to start small when it comes to leveraging data is to determine statistics that matter most to them. What problem are you trying to solve? Work backwards from that. Largely, this should consist of registration, attendance or enrollment data. If you haven’t already, begin forming a cadence to track these metrics over set periods of time. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can move with just a few small steps.

Six steps towards your first data-driven decision

1. Form Habits

Forming a cadence to track certain metrics is one way to begin setting habits for data collection. This can be as simple as setting calendar blocks for you and your team to collect, track and analyze certain data consistently. A weekly cadence is a great way to make your progress more measurable.

When forming a cadence, it’s important to establish areas to track your data/analysis. Google Drive is a great free tool that allows you to create a space to track your data management.

2. Revert to Your Mission

If you don’t identify the situation you’re trying to solve or improve, you most likely won’t apply data in the best way possible. Many processes in business revert back to understanding your mission. Data-driven decision making is no different.

3. Understand the Tools Available

Does your program run on a system that includes reporting and analysis? Maybe it's time to take a deeper dive into the tools/capabilities that are available to you. If not, now is a good opportunity to establish some data collecting procedures on tools you may have—feedback forms, surveys and social media platforms.

4. Organize

To properly analyze data it's important to organize the way you view it. First, ensure that the data you’ve collected is correct and doesn’t contain any false or duplicate information that can skew your analysis. Once verified, move your data into charts, tables, graphs or other visualizations that help you begin analyzing.

5. Analyze

After organizing comes analyzing. Now is when you revert back to your mission and the issues or situations you were trying to solve or improve. Break your analysis down into facts, facts plus interpretation and predicting trends. Essentially, discern what you see, why you’re seeing it that way and whether or not you continue to see it that way.

6. Draw Conclusions

What did you learn? A good place to start might be determining if the data has taught you anything new, swayed your thinking or reaffirmed your position. Conclusions drawn from your analysis will ultimately help your program make more informed decisions to optimize in the future. Now it is time to turn it into action.

So, it’s time to leverage data. By taking a close look at the tools available to you, forming small habits and sticking to your program’s mission, implementing an enhanced decision process is steps away. Now more than ever, it’s critical to supplement your intuition with the power of information.

Want to dive deeper? Check out the Eleyo Book of Reports to learn about the system reports that help community education and child care professionals gather data and optimize their operations. If you do not use Eleyo, it can inspire new data for your team to track.