We get asked questions like this all the time:
- We have a case management (or data) system. Why would we need another one?
- I like the sounds of a performance improvement system, but where does the data come from?
- I have lots of data, but no one is using it. Can you help?
The short answer is that all non-profit and government direct service programs need both a performance improvement software and a case management system. A case management system is important because it can help collect client-level data that records how many people are served, how well those services are delivered, and whether anyone is better off. It can also help manage individual client cases. Case Management systems are helpful, but they are not enough. They present a lot of data, but they fail to help you prioritize the right data – the data that that will allow you to strategically improve your service-delivery and create measurable impact in the community. In an age where performance accountability and impact measurement are becoming the norm, nonprofits and government agencies can no longer to afford not to have a performance improvement system in place.
Here are the five reasons you also need a performance improvement software:
- It links your performance with the desired population-level outcomes – Do you ever ask yourself: “How do I know if my program is working?” This is the kind of question that a performance improvement software can help you answer. The best performance improvement software will import client-level data from your case management system, aggregate it into simple performance metrics, and align it with indicators of community well-being. Do you want to know if your academic support program aligns with your goal to increase the high school graduation rate? Then you need to look at your performance data and your community wellbeing data strategically. This is something a performance improvement software can help you do.
- It helps you understand your performance – If you don’t understand how your program or agency is performing on a small set of simple performance measures, then how are you going to know if the program is working? How are you going to implement strategies to improve? A big part of understanding your performance is also understanding the context behind your data. The best performance management software will enable you to always provide the story (or analysis) with your data. That way, when you engage in your improvement strategy, you can be sure to have a complete understanding of the problem.
- It enables disciplined planning and action – Measuring, visualizing, and analyzing your performance is great. Decent performance management software will allow you to do just that. But doing all of this is essentially worthless if you don’t take the time to develop a clear, disciplined action plan. Everyone involved also needs to remain accountable for their individual actions. A great performance management system won’t just help you visualize your performance data; it will also guide you through the steps to improve it and provide you with a platform for assigning and managing actions.
- It facilitates working partnerships –Traditional business performance software does not work well for governments and nonprofits. Collaborative partnerships are the norm in the social sector, so these types of organizations need a special kind of software that will enable them to connect and share data with partners, funders, and the public. This is not something a case management system is equipped to do. A good performance improvement software will allow you to facilitate the sharing of data with external partners, so that you can work to create collective measurable impact. Data transparency is becoming the norm, and a performance improvement software will also allow you to share your accomplishments with the community.
- It helps you create Collective Impact – Collective Impact is an increasingly popular framework for social change that nonprofits and government agencies are using around the world to improve the lives of people. Because of its popularity, choosing a performance improvement software that supports Collective Impact would be ideal. It should help you organize around a common agenda, aggregate performance metrics across similar programs, share data with partner organizations, facilitate communication, and drive improvement strategies. Case management systems are not equipped to help you achieve these objectives. They lack the specific functions necessary to collaborate and strategize on a larger scale than the client-level data. Performance improvement software supports Collective Impact efforts in a way that case management systems can not.
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