Relationships Australia NSW’s Data Journey

Recently the Relationships Australia NSW (RA NSW) leadership team committed to new resources and associated education and training to build data confidence and accountability among staff. A key impetus of this project has been the organisation’s recognition of the importance of creating and maintaining a robust data collection system that is meaningful for both internal and external reporting purposes; that supports its continuous improvement systems and future planning; and ultimately results in improved outcomes for clients. 

Staff confidence and competence in data collection and reporting remain significant challenges for organisations, and RA NSW recognises that while their practitioners are passionate about making a difference to people’s lives, they are not equally passionate about data. In response, the leadership team have implemented a comprehensive change management approach to raise data awareness among staff and equip them with the skills of recording the work they deliver in a consistent and timely manner.

A number of complementary strategies have been implemented to support the change management agenda. These include new, data focused reports for each of the practitioners, reflective practice on data quality, and tailored supports.

Practitioners are resourced to enter their data straight after a client session. At least half an hour between clients is scheduled for this purpose. A key data message for staff is, if it is not recorded or it is not recorded correctly in our system, it is like the work never happened. The data entered by practitioners into the system is used to generate engaging and relevant reports. The new ‘My Story’ report is a representation of the data that relates to individual practitioner activities. These individualised reports are emailed to each of the practitioners on a fortnightly basis, about a week after the fortnightly representation of that data has been completed. The report format is structured by Data Exchange SCORE variables. RA NSW has found that the My Story reports has helped practitioners make better sense of how the data relates to their actual work behaviour.

The organisation supports reflective data collection and reporting practices, and the fortnightly production of the ‘My Story’ reports helps the leadership team identify any individual training needs. The reliability, consistency and quality of the data entered by practitioners is audited during fortnightly supervision meetings. A new data coach role has been resourced to provide targeted and tailored support where required.

The Data Exchange outcomes framework has been helpful in supporting RA NSW’s change management agenda because it provided an understanding what data was most important to collect. Opting into the partnership approach resulted in the establishment of rigorous processes across the organisation around the collection of that data, which is reported internally to the organisation’s Board of Directors and to the Department.

RA NSW has developed robust data collection and reporting systems which support the organisation in its business planning. By drilling down into the data, RA NSW identified three key customer help-seeking categories, from short-term responses for crises to longer-term self-improvement goals. Through understanding the underlying needs and mind-sets of clients, the organisation is better able to meet their needs and respond with appropriate, tailored language, content and services.