In the Age of Twitter, there is more data about association members and customers available from more sources than ever before. We’re all inundated with data from sites like FaceBook, Twitter, blogs, listservers and online communities.
Association executives should ask themselves three questions: which data are important to us, which data can we ignore, and which data will provide us with the knowledge we need to continue competing?
To effectively answer these questions, associations need to have the right mix of people, process and technology in place.
- People. In order to most effectively manage your data, and to help you make decisions about which data to start/continue/stop collecting, you need to have people in place with skill sets appropriate to the 21st-century flood of data. Those skill sets include an understanding of sales, marketing, customer service, data analysis and management strategy. For many associations, this means engaging outside help.
- Process. This is the most critical and often overlooked piece of the puzzle. Processes describe how we handle our accessible data, and then what we do with that data. Too often, a process is created “organically.” That is, the process occurs by default, without any thought given to how effective the process is and whether it serves the association’s greater mission. With the correct skill sets, your staff can analyze your processes and determine the best course of action for any given process.
- Technology. Of these three elements, technology gets the most attention, but istypically the least important piece of the puzzle. Having the right technology in place is critical to data management success, but while strong people and strong processes can easily overcome weak technology, great technology cannot overcome poor processes or weak people.
The amount of data to which we have access is increasing on a daily basis. And while choosing which data to track and which data to ignore is important, without the proper people, the correct processes and the right technology, managing that data effectively will become essentially impossible. Association professionals need to take the time to analyze where their associations’ weak spots are when it comes to people, process and technology, and address those weaknesses, if the associations are to remain relevant and vibrant.
This article originally appeared in the November 19, 2009, issue of Association Trends. Reprinted with permission.
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