A project's data trail begins before Study Plan is in place, and includes sensitive data in Participant Recruiting & Coordination. In the course of research, use Data Capture to create a record of what’s been uncovered, and generate on-the-fly interpretations during Interview Debrief. This data must be stored in a format the team can work with.
Captured data that is not flexibly accessible to the team is not useful. It takes care to satisfy the competing constraints you face in deciding how to store it.
Data cannot be lost. This is the material you use to build the insights that ultimately drive impact, and its safe handling is paramount. Data must be treated humanely. You work with personally identifiable information about participants who willingly agree to join your studies, entrusting you with their privacy. Data must be well-organized. To maintain credibility, you must be able to find a quote, or back up an interesting provocation with the video, photo, audio, or transcript.
Consider ahead of time what data you will collect. Imagine the ways you will need to use it, and what you will do to act on it. Information that is clearly organized and easily accessible speeds up all follow-up activities. A uniformly applied procedure ensures all data, even from a variety of teams, are treated with the same standards. Deciding how to handle data management needs up front will remove uncertainty and overhead work from everyone involved on the project team.
Therefore, determine clear rules and procedures for data before you begin data collection. Choose file naming, folder structures, backup safety, and retention policy. Ensure data is readily available for all follow-up design activities, and traceable back to a unique source ID. Enable simple pathways to post-processing, and how follow-up reporting or related efforts will interact with the data.
Standardize these rules and procedures across projects and project teams. Use project retrospectives to identify areas of improvements and invest resources in rolling out the updates.
Maintaining and scaling a system to manage this type of information across research projects is a sign of operational excellence. Good data management enables Video Analysis, Affinity Map, Sensemaking Workshop, and allows you to easily reference source data as part of Effective Reporting.