Data Planning and Work Flow Efficiency

Data and Work Flow Planning Importance of Data Management. Why is data so important when just printing badges? For starters there's an old adage "data is king" and those who control their data are kings. How does this apply to badge issuance and related systems? Badges can only be produced once data is entered. So, are you concerned with data accuracy, redundant data entry, duplicate records, data security, and data failure? If yes, then this knowledge base article is designed to assist in making sure your badging system is  KING . The process to make a badge requires data entry, photo capture, and printing. But what about data management, data security, data integrity and considering the other systems that may rely on this data to enable their functionality? All  authenticated transaction systems  (ATS) like time and attendance, door access, campus POS, visitor management, PC login and tracking require data to function properly. How is enrollment within these disparate databases being managed? In many cases, enrollment into each system requires manual entry of primary data like: first, last, employee number, badge number, date of hire, department, title etc. You may not even use your badge in an authenticated transaction system, but your badge issuance volume and model may be complex enough where data integration could be a major tool in cost recovery. Work Flow and Data Data has an origination point and identifying the workflow that surrounds it is key when addressing accuracy, efficiency, and consistency of data entry that is then used across your other disparate databases organization-wide. This will be your primary area of cost recovery justification. Document what it takes to enroll a new hire or other (student, contractor, member, patron, visitor, ...) into your primary database: HRIS, SIS, LMIS, membership and/or payroll systems. Then map out what is required to enable each record within the related authenticated transaction solutions. You most likely will find many manual redundant data entry steps and data security gaps. Developing the proper solution will not only require your understanding of your own department's workflow but being a champion and understanding the entire workflow process of your organization that is required to enroll and activate a badge.  Then and only then can the financial savings to your organization be realized by using origination data and the interfaces required to bridge the gap to populate applicable disparate databases. In other words, using the same data to populate all the other systems so it is exactly the same and not fragment: "Joseph Smith " in the HRIS system," Joe Smith" in the badge system, "J. B. Smith" in the payroll system...they will all be Joseph B. Smith. This may also include the addition of secondary data fields like badge number, preferred first name, badge type, photo, badge expiration date, badge print date etc. that may reside in the origination data table or a separate one. When configured properly, the primary data cannot be edited by the ATS user, just viewed and printed. If changes in primary fields are required, it should happen at the origination point, or source database, so  all  integrated disparate databases are updated as well.  Data Entry The efficiency of data entry also plays a big role in data management. Regardless of entry point, there are certain fields that can be formatted to speed up data entry. The use of drop downs, check boxes, field auto-population based on new record creation, record saved or based on a specific function like printing, photo capture, and badge printing logic can drastically shorten data entry time. One of the most powerful displays of this is using logic to print different badges and graphics based on entered data reducing if not eliminating badge template selection errors or misprints. If "badge type" equals "employee" and "department" equals emergency room, print the "employee" badge with the first name only and a red border around the photo.  Backup and Recovery Data has a storage point and having a clear understanding of where and how it is stored will address data security and recovery best practices for ongoing management. Your authentication transaction system's data should be classified as critical data. If it is compromised or corrupted could your organization continue to operate efficiently? Many badge and time and attendance systems store their data and photos locally on a clerical person's hard drive. This data is typically in a standard data format like Microsoft Access and can easily be copied to a removable storage device like a USB storage key or duplicated on to various formats of recordable media. Does that concern you? If so, you need to configure the database so it is locked via a user name and password along with additional user rights restrictions within the application software. The best thing is to have the database located on a secured server, controlled and managed by user rights. If your organization supports SQL or Oracle databases, you may entertain using it as your database engine for your authentication transaction system/s if supported by the software. Databases are not perfect and can crash or become corrupt. Your backup is only as good as your tested recovery procedure and results. Many authentication transaction systems have complex configuration files (database designs, badge designs, photos, graphics, etc....). Do not forget them in your backup and recovery planning. You may have software installation disks and tested backed ups of your data, but if the application software's customized settings and configurations files are not backed up, you could lose valuable resources. If you are not backing up your files at all, that is another issue. Start today! Numbers are the "Key " Numeric assignment for record indexing and badge numbering can make or break a database. Find out what is used as the "key index" in your origination database, and use that value in your authentication transaction system, even if you are not considering data integration at all. If down the road the two are to be integrated, the savings could be substantial. A key index is a value that is NEVER duplicated and used to match records in disparate databases. This may be an employee number, student number, card number; but never a social security number. We recommend not using the employee number as the card number, unless you find it acceptable to have lost and stolen badges active within your system when replaced. All authentication transaction systems allow for an employee/student number and a separate field for badge number association. Both should be unique in configuration where duplicated numbering is not permitted. There are some valid reasons to have the employee number as the badge number, for example the ease of re-issuance when not having to re-enter a new badge number in your ATS. However when considering the security ramifications of doing so, keeping them separate is best. Remember these are all security applications first, unless you have re-prioritized them. Plan Your Work...Work Your Plan A clear understanding and documentation of the above data management and work flow analysis will allow you to be more specific in your organization's selection of their next generation of software tools that require data to function properly. It is best to take a team approach and include expertise in the areas of: security, departmental functionality, database administration, networking and hardware specifications. Your approach to data management could be a "game changer" for your organization. It may not be immediate, however that's what planning is all about...the ability to make a quick decision based on acquired knowledge! Are you prepared? Author: Joe French 


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