Data gathering is a both excellent and terrible process; on one hand it allows to get tailor fitted information needed for any project and need. However, on the other hand, often it comes with a hefty price in budget and time.
While inconvenient for some projects, in other cases infield data gathering is a necesity due to the inexistance of any supplementary information. In this post, I discus in few paragraphs the philosophy and approach developed across my professional experience with in-field data gathering.
The context of the following discussion is set in a working space out side of a comfort zone, with no Internet or cellphone connection and difficult access conditions. While such conditions sound extreme on paper, many professionals encounter similar circumstances daily basis.
The steps towards a successful data gathering process share many of the characteristics of the organization of any project using managerial theory, but with some tweaking, this is explained in the coming lines.
As in any other project, the very first step is to list and weight the necessities. Consider which information can be generated in an office environment using indirect sources and what requires in-field gathered through direct means.
Establishing an action plan is maybe the keystone to all the process. It should contain the steps needed to cover all necessities directly or indirectly; including the training of the personel and readiness of needed gear. Establishing in the plan the times and budget for training and development of technologies will give an initial certainty to it. The following bullets are a rough guide for building the actual strategy of any project.
· Address the capacity to fulfill the necessities, in manpower, economic matters, timing and schedule, needed gear and any other element that the field work might require.
· Translate the previous as strengths and weaknesses, specially in the manpower, as it might shift the whole enterprise. Moreover, establish how to solve all possible weaknesses.
· Consider training and familiarisation with the data gathering systems by the field personal, this is key to an effective result. I do not need to elaborate on the potential disaster it means to have unqualified staff.
· The design of the QA and measures to fix problems should be considered at the same time as the execution design of the data gathering; but eh QA does not stop when the field work is done, it follows until satisfactory results are archived.
· The execution of the data gathering process should be done with the field personnel as well as the interpreters and analysts for maximizing the use and effectiveness of the result information.
· The post-QA process should be done considering the initial list of necesities; if it is possible to exceed them excellent excelent, if not (which is the most likely scenario 50% of the time), a second visit may be considered, again using the list of necessities as guide and judge.
· The revisiting plan must be done using the already gathered and processed information to easy the weight onsite and ensure no more revisitng is needed.
To conclude this brief guide, I just add the importance of the list of necessities, wandering apart from it does not lead to better results in most cases. All be sure to have the best possible list, with grounded objectives and real expectations.