In Business, information is an extremely valuable asset if used and requested correctly. When working as an eHealth Systems Administrator, I would get queries on a daily basis asking for “stats” or “data”. A standard query would be along the lines of “Can you get me stats on medical imaging for the past 12 months”. It’s at this point that I look around for my crystal ball…
Are they looking for a single figure (total services), or a trend (increase of services by month). Do they need to know the demographics of the patients who are having these services, or if the services are paediatric or adult cases? The permutations of options are endless and since I’m yet to find a magical crystal ball that gives me all the information surrounding requests, it’s important to provide the correct specifications upfront.
Here are 7 quick steps you should consider that will help you get the right information faster:
1. Provide context for what you’re asking
“With budget restrictions we’re reviewing the staff FTE against the number of services performed, broken down by modality to present to Executive”.
By providing context of your request, it allows the data analyst to configure the information to be the most appropriate for the target audience. In the end, this will help you look good when presenting the stats.
2. Explain specifically what you’re trying to prove with the information
“We are trying to prove that the requests for radiology services are increasing for modalities x, y and z, and that current FTE requirements are increasing”.
Data can be presented as information in many varying ways and this is key to achieving the desired results when using the information. By giving the data analyst some idea of what you’re trying to prove they are able to select and present the data in the most persuasive information format for you.
3. Explain the format you expect to receive the information
“We would like the information in csv format”
While you may think that it’s obvious that you would like your information to be presented as a pie chart, the data analyst may think you’re after the raw data in a csv spreadsheet. Save confusion and be upfront with what you’re after.
4. Is there any specific detail you require
“We’re looking for the data broken down by month, with total value of services including GST at the end of each row”
This is one of the most crucial factors of information requests. I’ve been through requests that have had 20 or more iterations of specification because the person requesting the information did not originally specify exactly what information they wanted displayed. Often this is one of the most time consuming factors in delivery of information, as the later the specification is finalised, the work to retrieve the data can increase exponentially.
5. Outline whether you have approval for this information
“This request for information has been approved by the ethics board of the organisation”
Whether you’re using the information requested for departmental use, organisational use or personal/educational use, most organisations will have some form of vetting requests for data held by the organisation. It’s important to understand what authorisation you require and gain it before coming to the data analyst to provide the detail. If you don’t, you may get yourself and the data analyst in unnecessary trouble.
6. Explain if the request is time critical
“Can I please have this information by COB Tuesday?”
While you feel your request is important, please understand that it is additional workload to the data analyst. Give the data analyst a realistic expectation of your timeline requirements and they will do what they can to work it into the schedule. Treat everything as if it was needed yesterday, and you’ll end up having all your work at the back of the line.
7. Remember your manners
“I realise you have a large workload and I appreciate your effort, thank you.”
Always remember that you are asking for help, and that you’re asking the data analyst to do extra work for you. Everyone is busy, but there is always time for manners. If you treat someone well, more often than not they’ll be willing to go the extra mile for you.
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