Association Analytics Blog

The Top 10 Association Business Intelligence Problems

Aug 19, 2013 3:17:36 AM / by Debbie King

We have noticed a common set of reasons why associations and nonprofits delay business intelligence and data analytics initiatives.  We know that our clients care about the mission of the organization they serve and each of these reasons is grounded in the belief that it is generally safer to just stick to the status quo.  We think this is dangerous in a world where private industry is encroaching on the domain that used to be sacrosanct to associations:  content, networking and education.  Now is the best time for association analytics to be used for a strategic and competitive advantage.

1. It’s too expensive

We find that the net value of a successful data analytics solution is substantially more than the cost, not only from a financial perspective, but also from a strategic one.  Check out our post from last week breaking down the cost of a BI project and why it’s a worthwhile investment:  http://associationanalytics.com/how-much-association-business-intelligence-project-cost/

2. It’s too complex

Association data can be especially challenging to work with because of the complexities of the business rules, locations, importance, and sensitivity of the data.  We have distilled our many years of experience analyzing association data into a standard 5 Step BI Implementation Methodology, which simplifies the process.  We identify the business questions, collect and clean the data, and then handle the technical services to create dashboards, visualizations and predictive models. Just as a heart surgeon knows that their patient may not thoroughly understand all of the intricacies of anatomy, business users may not always understand all of the technical complexity of a BI initiative.  However we love to educate and believe all BI projects should include a knowledge transfer and documentation process.

3. We like the way we do things now

It’s not a secret that many organizations in the association industry lag behind their for-profit counterparts.  Associations and nonprofits must start to focus on using data to achieve their strategic mission and serve their customers, rather than making decisions based on instinct, politics or tradition.  We already see rising competition from for-profit companies in areas once dominated by associations:  content, industry events, certifications, education, publications, etc.  Our mission is to help associations use business intelligence and data analytics to stay competitive and create their future.

4. We don’t know where all of our data is

An important part of every data analytics project is the assessment of the current state, including the data architecture, inputs, processes, outputs, existing capabilities and requirements for future initiatives.  Part of every business intelligence project is to create a data inventory - we often find important, but hidden data silos within the organizations we serve.

5. We don’t trust the data

Data cleansing is a challenging but absolutely essential and critical part of the business intelligence initiative.  DSK services include strategies to improve the quality of information to maximize its utilization for analytics.  Data is groomed for completeness, accuracy, conformity, consistency, and uniqueness across multiple sources.

6. We’re too small

Regardless of size, associations will benefit from decoding and using their data.  With the smaller organizations, the complexity (and resulting cost) of a total BI project is less.  The irony is that smaller associations can see a larger marginal gain from data analytics.  Since larger organizations might have identified many opportunities using older methods (guess and check), smaller associations can use the BI platform to more effectively identify the high-value “low hanging fruit.”

7. We already know what our members want

Even if this is true, providing better services is only a fraction of the value of a business intelligence project.   By interacting with data, your association can discover new and significant business questions that you didn’t know “that you didn’t know.”  Imagine going from asking questions like “What is the retention rate for member type x?” to “What does California do so much better to have such a better retention rate?”  Your decisions start to become more proactive and your organization can start to better allocate resources.

8. We’re not very analytical

DSK helps associations take their ability to intelligently analyze and proactively predict future trends to the next level.  We have already developed many association key metrics, measures, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  We already have baseline association dashboards with visualizations that are compelling and adaptable, two factors which are critical to the success of a Business Intelligence project.

9. We’ve heard stories about “false positives”

Implementing a business intelligence project is a bit like implementing email.  It is a tool that enables your organization to become more efficient and effective.  One of the “downsides” is that users might see false problems…like how stock market analysts on TV have predicted 9 of the last 3 recessions :-).  Problems with false positives risk trivializing the tool and as a result DSK dedicates significant project time to creating clear and relevant visualizations for data owners. Similar to how emails led to more communication “problems,” the inevitable conclusion is that the BI tool will be an integrated, invaluable tool for association staff.

10. We don’t have time

As former association executives, we understand the many demands on staff time and resources.  We serve in a role best described as trusted advisor and partner and our clients often consider us to be an extension of their own staff.  Our many years of experience in this industry provide us with an innate understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing associations today. Because of this experience, we are able to quickly understand the unique business requirements of our clients and provide high-quality assessments and solutions, which means you spend less time "reinventing the wheel".

Topics: Business Intelligence

Debbie King

Written by Debbie King