Building a Better Electronic Statistical Toolkit – Time for a Change

Universal Series TrendSome element of denial makes it difficult to acknowledge that a dozen years have passed since we first launched the Electronic Statistical Toolkit in 2002. At the time, the Toolkit was a huge step forward for NFPA stats programs. It fulfilled a vision set forth by our Econ & Stats Committee for software that would enable members to make more extensive and sophisticated use of NFPA statistical resources, and help build interest in participating in our Confidential Shipments Statistics program.

Over the years, we built more features and more data sources into the Toolkit, adding correlation analyses and custom forecasting tools, among others. The Toolkit remains widely appreciated by NFPA members, both casual and power users.But like a favorite old pair of stretch pants, the basic underpinnings eventually give way to the demands of time and continual pressure to keep doing more. While still serving its basic purpose, the Toolkit has become less user and administrator friendly than we would like to admit. And while the Excel platform was nicely familiar to users when we launched, it’s looking a little threadbare now.

So before any more seams bust loose, we’re interviewing software developers and getting started on a plan for a new Toolkit that will retain many, if not all, of the current features and data sources. The two central questions we’ll need to answer are:

  • What platform should we use? We’re moving away from Excel, but we need to decide which is more appropriate: a browser-based application or downloadable windows application. A lot will depend on relative flexibility and ease of update, for us and users.
  • Can we make it easier for members to use their own data in the new Toolkit, or will those options create insurmountable data security issues? Can or should we move to cloud-based storage, or should it remain local? You may soon see a mini-survey asking some questions along these lines.

Our plan is to use the remainder of our current fiscal year getting member input and scoping out the work, making decisions on some of these key questions, and setting a budget so we can get a software builder working on the new Toolkit when the next fiscal year starts in July. Watch for more updates as we go along, and feel free to contact us with your thoughts for the new Toolkit. (palles@nfpa.com or earmstrong@nfpa.com)

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