If you take the time and think through the process; how would you do with just using an educated guesstimate? Or, at least starting there to zero in on what will actually be needed for your project. Too often, we collect data, one because it might be easy, and two thinking while we are here let’s get all we can get. Just as often, I think collecting miscellaneous data can lead to the wrong conclusion or at least muddy the water. And this is not even considering the added time, even if it just separating it and organizing it.
The good analysts know when to use data collection and when to use napkin-type estimates. I am not professing that there is not a need for good data collection even when it is costly and time-consuming. What I am arguing is ensuring a justifiable cause and trying to narrow the focus for collecting the minimum amount.
Before starting, I like to use the process of SCAMPER
- Substitute: What is the likelihood the data will produce a better outcome? And how great?
- Combine: Will the data be able to be used with the existing collection to produce better outcomes?
- Adapt: Am I willing to adapt my process/thinking on what the data tells me?
- Modify: Am I willing to modify my product/service on what the data says? How? How much?
- Put to Another Use: Can this data be used in other places?
- Eliminate: Am I willing to eliminate parts or even stop the project or not repeat it?
- Reverse: How could I reorganize the project based on the new information.
Most of us do this intuitively to determine the cost of data collection but going through a simple process can help to fine-tune your data collection. If we take the time and think about the data and construct our experiment/campaigns with data collection in mind, it enables us to put it to use sooner and more effectively when it is obtained.