Debbie King - Jan 20, 2014

Prevent Data Dust at Your Association

There was a really great article posted a few weeks ago on LinkedIn called “Digging through the Data: How to Separate Quality from Quantity,” that is worth sharing and supplementing with additional examples.

With data storage so inexpensive and so many ways to rapidly collect data online; data has become literally that - data.  If your association is collecting hundreds of data points but not doing anything with it, then you have just data.  It can be hard to know where to begin, so in guidance with the article’s 4 steps here are the footprints of turning all that data into actionable information.

1. “Know Your Destination Before Reading the Map”

At DSK, we recommend data-guided decisions.  In order to do this, we invest a large amount of time at the beginning of a Business Intelligence project for planning.  The planning is all about determining what you want to measure based on what is valuable to your organization and will be beneficial in the long run.  Sometimes it is helpful to think of it in scientific terms where you start with a hypothesis and then work to prove or disprove it based on the data available.

An example facing your association might be determining whether or not to force users to answer a new demographic question with their event registration.  So establish what you will do with their responses before you bother the users with another dropdown.

2. “Let Your Changes Drive Your Research”

The idea here is to make a change (to your website, registration process, or shopping experience) that is supported by data or that will enable your association to create the data needed to make a better decision.  Using the prior example of a new demographic question on your registration form – determine how much effort you are willing to put into analyzing the results before asking the question.  Also, ask yourself if having that additional data point will enable you to make a data-guided decision the next time, instead of an instinctual one or an educated guess based on experience or feedback from a tiny group of attendees.

3. “Measure around Risk”

Think of a simple science experiment where you want to limit your variables and assess the risk with each data point.  The explosion impact would be different, but what is the risk of mixing two chemicals in your beaker, or the risk of selecting a particular demographic question for your registration process?  Would anyone be offended if they were asked this question?  Be sure to choose elements that will improve your association and are applicable to all your attendees and not certain registration types.  The simpler the question and response selections are the more reliable and accurate data you will collect.

4.  “Use or Lose Your Data”

The best quote from the article is, “No clear hypothesis or purpose for the data was established from the beginning, and it winds up collecting digital dust on a virtual warehouse shelf.”  This perfectly describes nearly every association’s current strategy when it comes to setting up a new membership application online, or revising their event registration process.  It is easy to ask questions ranging from what you ate for breakfast yesterday to a person’s communication preference. Unnecessary questions like these are added to the forms and the responses are never reviewed because it didn’t serve a cause in the first place.

Now that you’re aware of this issue, what can you do about it?  In certain systems, you can hide data elements from view which have no purpose without actually deleting the underlying data (if you’re nervous to eliminate it).  Most importantly, please, help your association prevent the initial collection of an unnecessary data point.

 

man in pool of data

Written by Debbie King