What is Data Collection?
In a nutshell, the systematic process of gathering information is known as data collection.
The collected data is analyzed to draw one or more conclusion. The purpose of data collection is to test a certain hypothesis and evaluate a number of outcomes.
It could be done to identify certain risk involved while taking a decision for the first time. Calculating expenses, ROI or certain numbers can be other objectives.
It’s also undertaken to keep a record of certain processes, quantify specific parameters, or even measure the performance.
The data collection process is not just very crucial in market research, but it has its importance in day-to-day processes of business like audit, field services, inspection, investigation, incident-reporting, and more.
A survey company might run a data collection project to record customer response of a newly-launched beverage.
The data gets analyzed later to find out if the customers like the beverage or not.
Whereas, a facility management company might collect data using facility management software while conducting a routine inspection at one of their client premises.
Here, the data is analyzed to find out details like average time taken to conduct an inspection, a number of inspections done a day, average no. of tickets raised, and more.
Not all companies analyze the data for actionable insights, some merely collect it and store the forms for the sake of records.
Data Collection Techniques
Here are some data collection techniques available:
- In-person, telephonic or email interviews
- Surveys & questionnaires
- Observation study
- Focus Groups
- Documents & Records
Data collection process can be either qualitative or quantitative, depending on the requirement.
Qualitative Data & Quantitative Data
Quantitative Data Example: It was found that the average monthly income for a household in Denver was $8500.
Qualitative Data Example: People in Denver like to spend their weekends at home rather than go for a movie.
Although, qualitative data can always be quantified by introducing a scale. Quantification of the above example: 67% of the Denver population like to spend weekends at their homes.
Tools of Data Collection
The most common and traditional tool for collecting the data is pen and paper. Even if it’s a face-to-face interview or a survey, the responses are recorded on the paper.
Let’s say you are supposed to identify people using Ford cars in Tampa. Once identified, you are required to collect other details from the car owners like:
- since how many years have they been using the car
- is it their first car
- do they own more than one car
- and so on.
To collect such data, you need to design a questionnaire first. The questionnaire is printed on the paper, and following which, data collection process kicks in.
Every data collection project comes with a pre-decided sample size. That’s because meeting the entire population who fall under that category is impractical.
When the sample size is defined, the groundwork starts, and when the sample size target is met – the project concludes. Data analysis follows later.
After the data is collected from the fields, the paper forms are brought to the offices and the data is entered manually into the systems.
from the car owners like:
The conclusion of a project after data analysis could be something like this:
- 18% of the Tampa population uses Ford cars.
- More than 23% of the population own one or more cars.
- 31% of the population have Ford cars with ‘White’ color.
But pen and paper are outdated tools for collecting data. Not just outdated, there are various drawbacks of paper-based data collection methods that’s the reason data collection apps come up.
Drawbacks of paper-based data collection
- Manual & Time-consuming – Yes, filling out paper forms is a tedious process.
- Erroneous – Since, it’s a manual process, it invites a lot of errors to be committed.
- Costly – Paper forms, printing, and physical storage is an expensive affair.
- Data Entry – One needs to invest manhours in data entry (sometimes separate teams have to be hired).
- Loss – Questionnaires can be lost at times, which leads to rework.
- No status-tracking – You cannot track the status of the project unless the data has been entered in the system.
- Lack of transparency – Since there are no real-time updates, maintaining transparency in paper-based processes is a challenge.
- No Automation – Everything is downright manual in paper-based data collection. Therefore, there’s no scope of automation.
- Low Productivity – Paper forms are long and unintelligent. It is obvious that they hamper productivity by a great deal.
Paper-based data collection tools are also referred to as offline data collection tools. This brings me to online data collection tools.
There are various alternatives available for online data collection. Google Surveys is one option used to collect data through online surveys. There are many good alternatives available to Google Surveys though.
You can create web forms using Axonator for surveys or any data collection project. Just drag and drop using the online platform to create questionnaires, and share the surveys with respondents to be filled.
But if you have teams who are engaged in field data collection on a day-to-day basis, then webforms are a bad idea because teams can’t carry desktops on the field.
If they are using a browser on a mobile device, then the data collection would heavily depend on the internet connection.
However, there’s a solution to this – mobile data collection.
Mobile Data Collection
Mobile data collection has emerged as a better alternative to both paper and online forms.
Platforms like Axonator help businesses to create mobile forms just by drag and drop. Coding isn’t needed at all. Unlimited mobile forms can be created for a data collection project.
When the app is published, it can be installed on a range of mobile devices like iPad & smartphones through App Store & Play Store (Supports devices on platforms: Android & iOS).
For field data collection, mobile apps prove to be a very useful and productive tool.
Since we discussed the need of internet connection, I would like to further add on that apps like Axonator don’t require a connection while collecting the data.
Offline data collection is a feature that field teams love since there are times when they have to travel to remote locations where the network availability is absent, or very weak.
But Axonator allows teams to capture data offline too. The internet connection is required later when the data is to be synced and sent to the cloud. Till then, the collected data stays safe on the device.
- Rich Data CaptureYou can’t capture images, audio or video with paper forms. But all of this is very much possible with mobile apps. Add fields for images, audio, and video in your mobile form to start collecting rich data over the mobile device.
- Data AuthenticityData authenticity increases manifold with mobile data collection app since it includes the signature feature as well. Features such as OTP & Unique prevent fake data submission by the team. It also eliminates duplicate entries.
- Advanced LogicAdvanced logic embedded in the Axonator mobile forms makes data collection a smooth process. Questions in the mobile forms can appear/disappear based on the previous responses marked. This makes form-filling an easy experience.
- Quick Data CaptureQR Code & Barcode features help to quickly scan codes and fetch the data without having to type anything on mobile forms.
- SubformsSubforms in a mobile app break longer forms into digestible small forms. This makes navigating between forms an easy process and doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming process.
- Report-GenerationPaper forms require you to create reports manually after the data collection project concludes or in the interim, but with mobile forms like Axonator – this isn’t the case. Reports in PDF format are generated automatically whenever a form is submitted. Other reports too can be generated whenever required just with clicks.
- AnalyticsAnalytics is an important capability that is available with digital solutions like mobile apps for data collection. With paper forms, you might need a separate tool to deploy analytics. But with mobile data collection app like Axonator, there’s an analytics dashboard that you can make use of. Just click to fetch important reports at any point in time, and you will be served with actionable insights.
- IntegrationIntegration feature ties data collection platform with other systems. This makes data migration easy. One click and the collected data can be exported to different platforms like Google Drive, Zapier, CRM, SAP, ERP, Zapier, and more. Paper forms lack such a system completely. As stated already, everything is manual in paper-based data collection.
- Real-time Notification You don’t have to wait for field reps to arrive back to the office to see the data. With mobile forms, when the data is submitted on the field, it becomes available in real-time at the office through cloud technology.
- Cloud Data Storage Cloud technology safeguards the data at all times. Data can be accessed easily. You don’t have to worry about the physical storage and data loss problems, which is true in the case of paper forms.
Benefits of Mobile Data Collection App
- Boost in ProductivityOne of the major benefits of using a mobile device for data collection is productivity. Capturing data is made easy, more forms can be filled with mobile apps. In fact, time is no more spent on data entry or report-making. Productivity is easily doubled.
- Reduced OverheadsSince no data entry teams are required, the expenses are bound to come down. Even more, costs on paper, print and storage are entirely saved – which further brings down the office expenses dramatically.
- Status-TrackingWith real-time notification, tracking the status of the project becomes as easy as pie. Every project can be tracked record by record, which is almost impossible with paper forms. Platforms like Axoxnator come along with a dashboard that offers different views (map-view, list-view, & more) of records submitted, and the same information can be sorted with clicks easily. Visual reports with graphical representation are fetched in clicks to have a better understanding of data. Approvals of tasks can be granted using the same app – this terminates bottlenecks in decision-making.
- Performance ManagementWith analytics, obtain actionable insights like what went wrong, what needs to be improved, what corrective & preventive actions can be taken, and more. This enhances the performance of the data collection process altogether.
- Better Data Quality & CompliancePaper forms in data collection can never ensure data quality since there are many loopholes, they are erroneous, and data can be manipulated. All of the above factors are tackled with a mobile app. This ensures good quality of the collected data. Axonator is the most-trusted data collection app used in more than 51 countries across the globe. It’s not just a tool used for collecting data, you automate your processes easily by building workflows. Axonator app is used as a
- Survey app
- Inspection app
- Code enforcement app
- Compliance app
- Audit app
- Feedback app
- Questionnaire app
- Field Agent app
- Ticket-generation app
- And more.
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