Annual Apricot Database Review: Why and How to Do One
A lot can happen in a year: program procedures get updated, goals change, new strategic initiatives are identified, and staff roles turn over. Whether the changes and events you experience during a year are expected or unexpected, many of them affect your Social Solutions Apricot™ database. That is why it is important to spend some time each year reviewing the current status of your Apricot database and plan for future improvements and updates.
Why complete an annual Apricot review?
An annual Apricot review is similar to developing an annual budget. Every year, you and your team collaborate to develop a projection of next year’s financial picture. You incorporate the lessons learned from the past year, feedback from multiple stakeholder groups and departments, and assumptions of future performance into your budget. You may even forecast how new strategies or initiatives will impact the budget in the coming twelve months. The budgeting process asks, “What do we expect in the coming year and how can we be most effective in achieving our goals given our expectations and available resources?”
An annual Apricot database review has a similar goal: to apply the lessons from the past year and expectations of the coming year to maximize our investment in Apricot software.
An annual review, like setting New Year’s resolutions, gives you and your team an opportunity to step back, lift your heads from the daily grind of data entry and database management, and look at Apricot globally. While you can certainly put a great deal of planning and strategy into an Apricot database review, let’s take a look at a few simple questions you might ask on an annual basis.
Note: For the best results, answer these questions with an open mind. Keep biases about cost, effort to implement, or any other barriers out of the discussion. Uncover the truth about your Apricot database and then evaluate whether the solutions you’ve identified are practical.
1. What data in spreadsheets or other software could be tracked in Apricot?
Apricot is limited by the number of users that can have login access to the database, but there are no limits to the number of forms, bulletins, and reports you can build in Apricot. You can build Apricot for nearly any data set or reporting project (learn more about that here). Maximizing your investment in Apricot software starts with using more of its capabilities.
2. What are the top three to five Apricot tasks that take the most time?
Of all the questions you should ask on an annual basis, this may be the most important. The areas you identify in your response should be the first places you focus on when planning for improvements to Apricot in the coming year.
3. What about data entry or system navigation feels burdensome, time-consuming, or difficult?
Ask this question of your data entry users. End users that use the system day to day will uncover roadblocks and pitfalls that database administrators may not find. Use the knowledge and experience of end users to improve data entry and system navigation.
4. What data is tracked in Apricot that feels unnecessary or what data isn’t tracked in Apricot that should be?
This question has two parts: subtractions and additions. Removing data entry requirements is often as necessary as adding new data entry. Reporting requirements change over time, especially as you are learning about your data and what is important to report and measure. Keep in mind that the default is often to add new forms, fields, and structure to Apricot, but be equally focused on areas you can trim, streamline, and simplify as well.
5. What reports are we missing? What are the primary data quality and data accuracy concerns for reports?
In our interactions with Apricot users, we often find that organizations are missing reports. Either they don’t have the reports they need or the reports they do have don’t give them the full picture.
Get the “right” reports built so you can save the time and hassle of adjusting and modifying partially built reports in the future. Additionally, focus on concerns for data quality or accuracy on an annual basis. Minor data cleanup projects on an annual basis should be expected and encouraged, especially if you expect accurate reports from Apricot.
Implementation is only the first step
Your Apricot software system is a dynamic tool that will evolve in the time you use it. To maximize your investment in Apricot software, update your system with incremental improvements over time. Implementation is only the first step in a continuous improvement process for your Apricot database. That is why we encourage at least an annual Apricot database review.