Move off the Farm and Know What’s in Your Silos with a Data Warehouse

May 26, 2016   |   Vol. 15   |   Issue 5
By Tom Beauchamp, MGI Vice President of Operations

Move off the farm and know what’s in your silos with a data warehouse

67% of the 160 associations surveyed have 1 Fulltime Employee or less dedicated to data management operations.”
EDM’s 2015 Association Data Management Benchmarking Survey Results

In agriculture, a silo is a structure used for storing bulk materials, typically grain, woodchips, food products, etc. Imagine that you are a farm owner and you don’t know what crop or quantity of crop is stored in your silos or how long that crop has been stored. This could lead to an economic disaster for you as a farm owner! Imagine that the farm owner is the CEO of an organization and that the CEO’s crops are data. Just consider now that the CEO doesn’t know what type of data is in his silos, what is contained in that data, the quantity of the data, and what insights can be mined from that data. The CEO would be missing vital knowledge and insights that could help the business perform more efficiently, increase sales, allow for more effective targeting, and ultimately affect whether or not the business is successful or unsuccessful!

A data warehouse is a central repository of integrated data from one or more disparate sources that creates a consolidated view of a company, organization, department, or association’s data. As each division or function within an organization tends to manage its own data set that serves its purposes, the data that goes into a data warehouse typically comes from a variety of different divisions across an enterprise and contains various sources and different file types—Excel, delimited file types, fixed files, AMS systems, CRM systems, ERP systems, other database files like sql or access, etc. Data-warehousing overcomes these silos by combining all relevant data for querying and fast, efficient business reporting and analytics, allowing for a 360 degree view of an organization.

A data warehouse performs 3 primary functions: Extract, Transform, and Load, often referred to as ETL. The Extract phase is a set of processes and programs that extracts data for the data warehouse from the various data sources that are being consolidated. The Transform phase converts/transforms source data into the proper format or structure for querying and analysis, to ensure that all enterprise reporting requirements can be met. The Load phase takes the extracted, combined, and transformed data and loads the data into its final destination. The final data is then used by anyone in the enterprise or extended enterprise to deliver interactive content and intelligence. Customers, partners, employees, managers, and executives can access the content of the data warehouse anytime or anywhere.

Although most associations typically have an AMS (Association Management System), most still have other data sources that are stored outside of the AMS. Data stored outside of the AMS can come from many sources, but some of the most common data sources that are not stored in the AMS come from separate CRM or Accounting Systems, conference/convention data, website data, and individual departments that are maintaining their own data. According to EDM’s 2015 Association Data Management Benchmarking Survey Results, associations have an average of 4 distinct and separate data management systems in place. This means that most associations do not have a complete view of all of the data spread across their enterprise and may even be seeking data or answers to questions that they already have the data or answers for.

Having a good working data warehouse provides the foundation needed to truly have a 360 degree view of an organization’s data. This overarching view of data leads to business intelligence and faster, more efficient decision making, which also opens up many other opportunities to perform data-mining, data analysis, modeling, and more… ultimately leading to a data-driven organization.

It is important to always keep in mind that while raw data can be useless, if properly combined and analyzed, it turns into knowledge; knowledge becomes business intelligence; which in turn allows you to make informed decisions and increase the efficiency and profitability of your organization. For businesses and associations that truly want to understand their market and constituents, surpass their competitors, and become a data-driven organization, a data warehouse or 360 degree view is a must.

While there are many tools available on the market to build data warehouses, most require advanced knowledge of those platforms to be used effectively, and may even require a full-time employee or two to maintain, update, and run the data warehouse or platform. Choosing the right experienced partner, tool, or solution to build and run your data warehouse can mean the difference between being left on the farm to ponder what is in those silos or having a highly effective and profitable data-driven organization.

For more information about developing your own data warehouse or other data-related questions or problems, please contact MGI Vice President of Operations Tom Beauchamp at or tel. 703.706.0377.

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