Take your hands off the wheel and let the data drive!

September 26, 2017   |   Vol. 16   |   Issue 9
Tom Beauchamp, MCC, MGI Vice President of Operations

Take your hands off the wheel and let the data drive!

In MGI’s 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, we asked the following question: If there was one hurdle you could remove to make your association run smoother, what would it be? Three top responses are as follows.

  • All of our member and customer data would be housed in one place. (Individual Member Organization)
  • A new AMS. Without accurate, timely information on our membership, it is so difficult to make smart decisions. (Individual Member Organization)
  • Strong prospect database. (Trade Organization)

A data-warehouse and business intelligence solution can solve all of these challenges and more! By providing a centralized repository of all an association’s or organization’s data that is consolidated, accurate, up-to-date, and ready and able to be queried and visualized, these challenges are overcome.

The data-warehouse integrates data from one or more disparate sources that create a consolidated 360 degree view of an association, company, organization, or department’s data. A Business intelligence (BI) solution uses software and services to transform data into actionable intelligence that informs an association or organization’s decision making process, allowing for data-driven decision making. BI tools access and analyze data sets, allowing users to drill down into the data and visualize findings in interactive reports, summaries, dashboards, graphs, charts, and maps that provide users with detailed intelligence about the state of the business.

As each division or function within an association or organization can tend to manage their own data set that serves their purposes, the data that goes into a data-warehouse and BI solution typically come from a variety of different divisions across an enterprise and contain various sources and different file types, such as excel, delimited file types, fixed files, AMS systems, CRM systems, ERP systems, and other database files like sql, or access, and more. Data-Warehousing and BI solutions overcome these silos by combining all relevant data for querying and fast, efficient interactive business reporting and analytics, allowing for a consolidated view of an organization.

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 are separate CRM, Accounting & Financial Transaction Systems, conference/convention data, certification data, chapter data, website data, and individual departments that are maintaining their own data. A data-warehouse and BI solution provides a single source of the truth that is a central, controlled, reviewed, and approved source of data from which a whole association or organization can draw. It is the master data and source. When you don’t have that single source of the truth and staff can pull similar data or metrics from different systems, inevitably those systems will produce different numbers and results, creating chaos.

Having a good working data-warehouse and BI solution provides the foundation needed to truly have an accurate view of an organization’s data. The 360 degree view of that 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.

Even if your association or organization does not want to or cannot put all of its data for some reason into a data-warehouse, this step can still be very beneficial. For instance, some associations prefer to have smaller data-warehouses and BI solutions focused on one main area of concentration in order to monitor that area, gain insights into historical and future trends, and be able to react to changes in that area of concentration quickly, ultimately allowing them to be nimble. Specific areas of concentration could be renewals, certification, conferences, acquisition and prospects, product sales, or other areas of concern.

Some organizations hear the word data-warehouse and think “Data Warehouse = Large Project, Long Time to Implement & Very Expensive.” This is a false assumption! Typically with the right partner, the area where the most time is spent during a data-warehouse implementation is in the scoping and requirements phase. After the scoping and requirements are written, it could be as little as a few weeks before the data-warehouse and BI solution is finished. Data-Warehouses and BI solutions are also not as expensive as you may think. After all, having staff, executive staff, and even possibly board members creating strategic plans, financial forecasts, and association- or organization-wide plans from bad, old, inconsistent, and unmerged data can be more costly than a data-warehouse and BI solution, and could also ultimately lead to ruining an organization. Some data-warehouse and BI solution providers will not even charge for the upfront work and data-warehouse and BI solution build and will only charge for typical licensing fees, on-going programs, data storage, and update costs on a monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or yearly basis.

While there are many tools available on the market to build data-warehouses or BI solutions, 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 and BI solution. Choosing the right experienced partner, tool, or solution to build and run your data-warehouse and BI solution can mean the difference between losing to competition, creating bad or wrong strategic plans, investing in and prioritizing the incorrect programs, making false assumptions, and ultimately moving in the wrong direction; and having a highly effective, strategic, nimble, and profitable data-driven association organization.

For more information on how we can help your organization with data solutions, please contact Tom Beauchamp at TBeauchamp@MarketingGeneral.com or 703.706.0377.

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