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Things I heard at ASAE Tech Conference VII – Data you should NOT collect
12 January 2012, by , in Executive, 2 comments

At the session I presented at the ASAE Technology Conference last month, one of the points I made was that you should never collect data you’re not going to use. Seems obvious enough, but I still see many of my clients collecting data out of habit: “Oh, we’ve always asked for their highest degree attained. But we don’t actually use that data for anything.”

So I asked the audience if they could quickly think of any data they are currently collecting but not using. Several audiences, in near unison, responded “Fax numbers!”

What a GREAT example of collecting information we don’t use.

Look at the data you’re collecting in your database, especially “demographic” data. Is every piece of data being used for some purpose? And does that purpose add value to the member’s experience with your organization? If you can’t answer yes to both those questions, you’re collecting data you should NOT collect.

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2 Comments on "Things I heard at ASAE Tech Conference VII – Data you should NOT collect"

Andrew Crane - 13 January 2012 Reply

You’ll often see surveys collect data that sketches out a portrait of the respondent at that point of time, examples being “years in industry” or “age”. Within a year, this snapshot is just a tad inaccurate, and the picture blurs further from the truth over time. It is better to collect data elements that can definitively answer these types of questions year after year, such as “year entered industry” or “year (or date) of birth”. Sometimes, this is not possible. How many employees are at your business? What is your annual revenue? What are your interests? There is no underlying key from which these answers can be derived. If this type of data is to be collected and stored for future analysis, there needs to be an outreach procedure in place to keep the data honest. The technology is there to make this possible - e-mail blasts and online profiles are standard features that any major AMS offers. But, organizations need to be both creative and disciplined in order to encourage members to complete the chore of communicating that their business hired another fifteen employees, or they’ve dropped running to take up Tae Kwon Do.

    Wes Trochlil - 13 January 2012 Reply

    Andrew, excellent point. If an association is collecting data that by definition will "age" over time (e.g., # of employees), then the association needs to have a plan in place for collecting, updating, and managing that data into the future.

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