Associations are complex businesses!
One of the reasons managing data at an association can be so challenging is because associations are very complex businesses. The simple fact is a typical association of almost any size is selling multiple product lines (e.g., membership, events registration, sponsorships, products, etc.) and very often these product lines have a broad range of variables within them (e.g., different membership classes, registrations with sessions, date-ranged pricing, etc.).
Compare that to most for-profit businesses. Most small businesses sell a very limited range of products and services. And even huge businesses selling millions of products (e.g., Amazon) have a very limited range of variables within those products.
Now consider that even the very largest association is considered a "small business" by for-profit business standards. It's a perfect storm of very high technology needs (the database needs to manage all of these disparate products, services, and options) with relatively very small budgets.
Is it any wonder that associations struggle with managing data?
This isn't an excuse, but rather an explanation. It's also why many associations will have multiple systems in place (e.g., member database, event registration database, abstract submission platform, etc.) which raises the technology needs (and costs!).
Ironically, the typical association is often facing much more challenging data management needs than even the largest and most complex member of the association. And it's important that our members, and especially our board members, understand that.
So the next time a board member asks "Why can't we be more like Amazon?" try to help them understand how much more complex your operations are!
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