Behind the Scenes – Inside NIC’s Data Group, Part 1
Hundreds of businesses, including capital providers, developers, owners, operators, service providers, and others, rely on the NIC MAP® Data Service as they research, analyze, and assess their markets and prospects across the country. Clients know they can trust the accuracy of the data NIC makes available, as they leverage the ever-expanding utility of NIC’s online platform; but they may be unaware of what happens behind the scenes in order to produce such quality data. There’s a lot going on, so we’re breaking this into two parts, and will post the second half next week.
In fact, NIC has invested heavily, since its earliest years, in its data collection and quality assurance practice, to achieve its mission for improved transparency into the seniors housing and care property markets. NIC’s efforts have helped propel the sector to its current status as a leading property type in the commercial real estate industry. Quality data has increased access to capital, lowered costs, and, ultimately, helped improve access and choice for America’s seniors.
Today, NIC supports a talented and experienced in-house data group dedicated to producing the finest quality data available, and enjoys close, long-term alliances with some of the industry’s leading vendors of data collection services. In 2018, 22 people, employed both in-house and by vendors, produced four quarterly data releases, two Seniors Housing Actual Rates Report releases, all of the data for the Fifth Edition of the NIC Investment Guide, and many custom data requests, both for internal and external clients. All the while, the group worked daily to collect thousands of data points, assure quality across its entire platform, add new data from new sources, research and analyze trends, streamline processes and develop new reports and new features.
To shed light on what it takes to produce the quality and volume of data that NIC offers, NIC convened the leadership of its data group to discuss their approach – and share how NIC’s data investments are providing value to clients – and the sector overall – every day.
Dan Raney, Director, Product Solutions & Technology, started off by explaining that NIC collects data from a number of sources: “Many of the larger contributors are able to give us detailed reports from their property management systems, but we also work closely with the ProMatura Group, who gets information directly from properties over the phone. They have a team of 15 people dedicated to data collection for NIC, and don’t work on anything else. “
The in-house group that manages NIC’s data is divided into several distinct teams. There is an internal research and data collection team that focuses just on construction data. Three team members are responsible for researching projects in the pipeline, from the early planning stages through construction starts. They comb through a complex collection of resources to identify and track proposed and planned construction in 140 U.S. metropolitan markets. Once a project breaks ground, the ProMatura Group tracks the property through its opening day.
NIC’s systems have built-in checks designed to flag and block any data that sits outside given parameters. The three-person Quality Assurance team looks at thousands of records daily, in order to assess whether the data has errors in it – or whether indeed they point to actual shifts in the market. “Our teams are constantly reviewing quality assurance reports throughout each quarter. They are very detailed in their inspection of the data, diligently examining the nuances of each data set (skilled nursing, actual rates, etc.). Although each data set is unique, we’ve put together a common quality control process that ensures the accuracy of all data before it is reported to our clients.” said Raney.
Research Manager Brian Connolly’s group is responsible for initial data collection and quality assurance. Many sources provide data constantly, while others provide periodic updates. Some data sources are one-time downloads. In the case of ProMatura’s contribution, Connolly says, “ProMatura is calling the same properties in the same markets every quarter. They’ve been able to build relationships with these communities and have built a lot of trust with the people they’re talking to provide the detailed data points that NIC requires for its reporting. They’re speaking the same language. Every quarter they call about 13,000 properties. This past quarter they finished 96% of those calls, meaning they’ve entered all the relevant data reporting into our survey instrument and submitted it for our review and publishing. Again, should any data they report fall outside our thresholds, it is flagged for review. We review those records every day, as they come in.
“ProMatura has worked with us for over ten years. They understand how this data is used in the industry, and how important it is to everyone out there that it is accurate and complete. We have an excellent partnership with them. They also manage data that some of our corporate contacts enter into workbooks, which they then enter into our system, which then can be reviewed for quality along with all the other data.
“We also get data directly from corporate partners at the property level, which is now a somewhat automated process. There’s a separate QA process for this type of electronic data submission. The systematic computerized process makes it much easier for these partners to submit their data to us and reduces the strain on our own resources as well.”
All property data is collected by Connolly’s group, and combed and checked for accuracy. He explained the purpose of NIC’s multiple checks prior to analysis: “The point is to have some redundancy in the way we review all the data. It means we have numerous eyes on every data point, with numerous checks throughout each quarter. The thresholds we use are based on historical trends for that property. We can use them to benchmark the data we’re collecting and make sure there are no surprises sitting so far out of the trend that we need to look at it more closely and clean it up. After the collection period ends, in the data finalization process we run all of our checks repeatedly to make sure the data is clean before it is turned over to our analysts for reporting.”
Data collection is far from the end of the story. Next week’s post will delve into the analysis, quality assurance, and reporting efforts of NIC’s data group.