Happy 4th of July! What a great time to think about data independence, democratization, and governance for your association. In this post we’ll talk about the balance between the central management of data by IT and data directly managed by association staff.
There is a lot of value in combining data from one business area with data from another business area. Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, when we combine data sets and put the pieces together, we get a complete picture of customers, events, and activities. But how do you know what data to combine?
Often association leaders ask me, "Where is the best place for us to begin our data analytics initiative?" I like this question and am reminded of Steven Covey's expression that before we undertake a new initiative, we should "begin with the end in mind". When it comes to data analytics for associations, this means starting with your strategic plan.
Business Intelligence can improve nonprofit and association decision making. Most of us are familiar with the scenario where we extract information from a variety of different systems that each serve their own purpose, but are not integrated. In recent years, there has been a push to integrate systems or to try to put everything into one multi-purpose system, like an AMS (Association Management System) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management). There are certainly benefits to this especially for the front-end users and customer service representatives. However, there are challenges as well. For example, it often will slow down a transactional system to store every email that was ever sent to a member. It may also be cost prohibitive to have a real-time integration between all of your systems.
Top Trends in Business Intelligence for Associations for 2014
Choosing the right data visualization is as important as choosing the right outfit to wear to an important meeting. Although your alma mater’s sweatshirt is perfect for the ball game, a suit and tie is more appropriate when trying to convince your board to increase your budget. Similarly, you are going to catch some flack for showing up to the game in a suit and tie! Choosing the right visualization for your audience is similar to choosing the right outfit for the function.
The private sector and government organizations have been using Business Intelligence (BI) for over 15 years. The good news for those of us in the association space is that we can learn from their mistakes and avoid them when starting BI programs for our associations. Below is a summary of common mistakes and how they can be avoided.
Steve Jobs said that computers are like a "bicycle for the mind" allowing us to go further faster with less effort. Within the field of business intelligence, I believe data discovery should be the same, amplifying our intelligence and creativity, allowing us to see patterns and insights which we can use to create the future of our organizations.
Locating Your Data
Do you know where all your data is? Associations, like all businesses, have so many working parts that it can be difficult and time consuming to keep information both centralized and easily assessable. However, in the age of data analytics, it has become even more critical to know the location and importance of your data in order to use it to fulfill your mission.