by Rebecca Rose and Lee Dail
Below you will hear from BJA NTTAC Director Rebecca Rose and Lee Dail, Grants Administrator for National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), on their experiences with the new training and technical assistance (TTA) Reporting Portal.
Rebecca: As the Director of BJA NTTAC, I have spent the last two years dreaming about how we can improve TTA data collection – literally dreaming at night. I’m hesitant to call it nightmares, but it’s pretty close. But, with the release of the TTA Reporting Portal over the summer, I can officially say I am very excited about TTA data! Through BJA, we offer a HUGE range of TTA services and BJA has made good progress over the years in tracking that TTA and reporting on the outcomes. Our hope is that by building on the data collected in the Training and Technical Assistance Reporting System (TTARS), we can achieve a more standardized and robust reporting and analysis method so BJA staff can have a better understanding of the types of TTA being delivered across the country to the criminal justice community.
Lee: During my eleven years serving NW3C, I have been fortunate to work closely with BJA staff to maintain its longstanding partnership with NW3C. I have witnessed the front line strategies of the BJA progress reporting as BJA staff sought to evolve and enhance the process. This process has changed dramatically as BJA gathered data that would accurately convey the impact and significance of funding. Years ago, grantees were expected to create in-house databases to manually collect data for each funding objective, then compile the data into a hard copy paper report for mailing. It seemed as soon as we finished reporting for a quarter, it was time to start preparing for the next. In 2009, NW3C participated in BJA’s development and piloting of TTARS to collect data electronically. TTARS was an improvement, but the system’s expansion was limited, and NW3C requested modifications. I remember in 2013, BJA began to address the TTARS functionality by establishing a more modern database system built on a new platform that could be modified to increase user satisfaction. That database system became the TTA Reporting Portal.
Rebecca: What’s especially exciting about this new system is that not only will providers be able to report on and categorize with some standardization, but providers AND staff can use the system to track progress against TTA activity.
Plus users can extract data from the system into Excel which allows us to sort and see data at a more granular level. Providers and BJA staff can run customized reports on TTA activities that support a specific program area or targeted audience and use this data to fulfill data calls. This ultimately reduces the number of times BJA staff need to reach to TTA partners for data.
Lee: The NW3C team also had the privilege of participating as an alpha tester for the TTA Reporting Portal. We have been working in the system since May 2014. Our team has spent a lot of “quality” time with the NTTAC team as we shared feedback and worked through system bugs. We believe the investment has paid off and added real value into the system’s features. In particular, components like the bulk upload function are very helpful to NW3C because the NW3C training team presents more than 300 classes a year. The ability to upload large groups of datasets has the potential to drastically reduce the time required for manual entry of individual event data.
Rebecca: Just recently, we pulled information on a number of trainings to provide data points in support of a congressional inquiry. We now have greater accessibility to this kind of comprehensive data on TTA activity and it allows BJA to easily report how grant funding is being distributed to the field. With the TTA Reporting Portal, we have the ability to pull data on our own without having to bother TTA providers to gather it for us.
Another feature that has had an immediate impact is the TTA mapping tool, which allows providers to geographically search for previous or upcoming TTA events across the country. The map allows users to create a visual representation of a provider’s geographic presence. It can also be used to identify disparities and/or partnerships in regions, states, and localities. It’s really quite remarkable.
Lee: As we approach the reporting deadline in January, I had the opportunity to review and offer opinions on a new and improved Grant Management System (GMS) report. The questions in the new report are the same, but there is a new, user-friendly appearance, and added functionality to generate comprehensive data that should be beneficial to BJA program and policy managers. In NW3C’s case, the GMS report must be completed both in the TTA Reporting Portal as well as the GMS. Likewise, GMS requires grantees to generate and upload a PDF copy of the TTA report into GMS. Hopefully, this duplicate activity will be corrected in the near future.
Rebecca: As you know from our repeated messaging on this, there are a ton of resources available to you to help you navigate the TTA Reporting Portal. All of them are available through the TTA Collaboration Portal. Plus in 2015, BJA NTTAC will provide ongoing trainings on the TTA Reporting Portal including a 90-minute training geared towards being a refresher course or a webinar for new staff, 30-minute brown bags, 15-minute tutorials, and tips sheets. They will cover a wide-range of topics including how to use milestones to reflect progress on lengthy projections, how to use TTA mappings to support program planning, and how to extract relevant data in reports to respond to specific data calls. We will announce the upcoming training events via e-mail and on TTA Collaboration Portal posts.
If you haven’t logged onto the TTA Collaboration Portal, please do it soon. There are a bunch of helpful resources available and you can connect with your TTA provider peers in a way that has never been possible before. And, most importantly, because that January reporting deadline is approaching quickly, if you haven’t started entering data in the TTA Reporting Portal, start NOW. This new system is different from TTARS, so there is a different kind of data entry, but once you get used to the system and start using it on a regular basis, you will see why I am excited about TTA data!
A special thanks to Lee Dail for joining me in this discussion and for the NW3C team’s concerted effort to enter all of its training, technical assistance, and deliverable data into the TTA Reporting Portal!
We would like to know your feedback and input on the TTA Reporting Portal. Please share your feedback on the system with us by contacting BJA NTTAC at 1-833-872-5174 or BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov.
If you are a state, local, or tribal criminal justice agency and would like to learn about BJA’s diverse pool of BJA TTA providers, download a copy of the BJA TTA Provider Directory.