Data management: Keying consistently is key for AMS

Note: This is the second of three articles. Click here for the first article and here for the third.

In my last column, I wrote how those assns that stayed with the same AMS vendor for a lengthy period of time, thus demonstrating consistency, were more successful with their AMS systems than those organizations that jump from vendor to vendor. But there’s more to consistency than just staying with the same vendor. The successful assn is also consistent with how it manages data in its AMS.

Establishing data entry rules
First and foremost, the most successful assns establish guidelines for entering data into the database. These data entry rules clearly outline how staff should enter data. For example, when staff is entering an address, how is the word “Street” to be entered? Is that “St” without a period, “ST.” with a period or “Street” spelled out? Ideally, there are data entry rules for every field in the database. And ideally, the system itself can enforce some of those rules through programming. For example, a US telephone field must have 10 digits and only 10 digits. (Extensions may be captured in another field.) Enter anything other than numbers, or anything more than or fewer than 10 numbers, and the system shouldn’t allow you to move past the field.

These same guidelines and enforcement tools can extend to your web site to ensure that your members and customers enter their data as accurately as possible.

Reinforce the rules with data integrity checks
Of course, setting the rules is only the first step. The highly consistent assn also has a series of data integrity reports that it runs over time to ensure that the established data entry rules are followed.

For example, at Independent Sector, Washington, each member organization should have a primary contact, a dues billing contact, and a “head of organization” contact. The Independent Sector regularly checks their database for any member organization that is missing one or more of these contacts.

“This type of data integrity check is absolutely critical to our ongoing success,” IS member services director Michael Connor explains. “Often, an individual who happened to be a dues contact is removed from an organization for perfectly legitimate reasons, but the user forgets to check if he or she is a key contact. These data integrity checks allow us to catch these omissions, which ensure that we always have a contact for sending dues renewals.” Moving beyond mediocrity to truly great requires consistency with data management as well. In my third and final article, I’ll explain how successful assns consistently leverage data in their AMS to achieve greatness.

This article originally appeared in the August 11, 2006 issue of Association Trends. Reprinted with permission.


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