I was once on a tour of a plant where conveyor belts were being manufactured. I noticed that one of the machines had several people standing around it, and the machine did not seem to be working well (if at all). I asked the tour guide what was going on, and she replied “Oh, we always have problems with this machine. It never works right.”

So being a nosy type, I said “It looks like the people running the machine don’t really know what they’re doing.” And she replied, “Oh, that’s because they’ve never really been trained. When we hired them, we just put them on the machine, showed them how to turn it on and off, and had them get started.”

“Well what about documentation? Surely there’s a user’s manual for the machine…”

“No,” she replied. “The one they gave us didn’t make sense to us. So we’ve just been trying to figure it out as we go.”

This story is a complete fabrication, of course.

But if you substitute the word “machine” in this story with “AMS” or “database,” this is a story I hear repeated again and again in association after association. Associations invest thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into their data management systems, only to short-change the staff by not providing the kind of documentation and training that would allow  staff to be really successful with the database.

If you ran a manufacturing plant, would you run the machines without proper training and documentation? Then why are you running your association that way?