Some associations have already begun implementing processes and tools to glean actionable insights from their existing data assets, but many others are not quite there yet. There seems to be consensus on the need for more metrics and better data analytics, but we hear common themes in the reasons why association executives feel unprepared to begin the process of gathering, cleaning, prepping, analyzing, and ultimately acting on insights gained from their business data. Here are a few, and the reasons why you need to just go.
No ops improvements this year
“We’re focused on other parts of the organization right now; operations isn’t on our radar.”
By investigating your data – seeing how your sales, membership, events perform – you’ll understand it better. You’ll discover inefficiencies and can fix them before you make the same mistakes again, saving time and/or money that fuel the other parts of your business.
It doesn’t make or save $
Understanding your data better always benefits your organization. By seeing performance and tracking trends, you are able to identify how well your campaigns are doing, if your membership is thriving, or if you need to improve your renewal rates. All the information you need to make better decisions that generate or save revenue already exists in your system(s). You just need to set it free.
Things are going well
There is an old saying that goes something like this: the best time to patch your roof is while the sun is shining. If things are going well, take the opportunity to dig into the data to understand why, leverage those strengths and lay the groundwork for future growth. Build your good into great. Also, wouldn’t it be wise to already have the mechanism in place to analyze your data if things slow down, so you can pivot and solve problems immediately? Back in the late 1990s, one of my association clients was building an online job board during the height of the dot.com boom when unemployment was at historic lows. They were investing during good times so they could be ready to serve their members when tougher times came (and they did).
There are solutions available for every budget. But the greatest opportunity cost may be in not becoming enlightened to that which you do not know. Not uncovering and exploring hidden or “lost” data assets and subsequently taking advantage of the opportunity to leverage those assets. Make data analytics part of your business day. If there is no money in the budget, work with your team to inventory your data assets and start compiling a list of questions that you wish you could answer in a timely fashion but can’t. Use this research in your next budgeting cycle to make a case for investment in data analytics.
We don’t have time or we can’t take on another project
Understanding your data is not a “project”; it’s the equivalent of electricity, running water and refrigeration. It’s the lifeblood of your organization. Most projects don’t require huge time investments. Start small, answer your most pressing questions, and move on from there. Examine your priority list and carve some time out to get started.
There is no wrong time to start building a culture of transparency and democratized data. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and acknowledgement of data quality issues or outdated business processes is a necessary step on the road to enlightenment (it’s the step after denial). Surfacing these issues creates urgency around making improvements, and that is a healthy and good thing. Your association will be better able to serve your members when you’ve established a trusted source of truth and everyone in the organization is reading off the same sheet of music.
Now go, do, act!