Data management: Steady as she goes

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Jim Collins, noted management guru, was keynote speaker at a recent industry conference. One of the points he made in his speech was that “the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.” That is, organizations that constantly change course, change their minds, and don’t see an idea through to completion are condemned to average performance.

As I reflected on this simple yet powerful concept, it dawned on me that this same principle applies to assns and their data management systems. Quite simply, those organizations that have been most successful implementing and using data management systems are those that have a consistent approach.

Consistency is Key

One area where consistency pays off is the relationship between the assn and the software vendor. Assns that see the most success with their databases, and get the most return on their investment are those that stick with their vendor over a long period of time, even if the vendor changes products. For example, the National Assn of College and University Business Officers has worked with the same AMS software vendor for nearly 10 years, even though the vendor made a complete design change in their product, moving from client/server to a web-based format. As NACUBO chief information officer David DeLorenzo said, “We don’t view our technology vendors as vendors, but as business partners. I see this as a long-term relationship where each party is fully vested in the success of the other.”

On the other hand, those organizations that struggle with their data management systems are likely to be those that have not had a consistent long-term relationship with the software vendor. It might seem axiomatic that those organizations with a positive long-term relationship with their vendors are more successful, but a surprising number of assns do not understand the value of such a relationship.

Other highly successful organizations bear this out. Groups like the American Urological Assn, the American Speech-Language-Hearing- Assn and the Professional Golfers Assn all have very effective and very successful assn management systems in place. And while each uses a different vendor and software package, they have one thing in common: each has been with their vendor for more than 10 years. This is not a coincidence; these organizations have a commitment to their data management system and their AMS vendor because they know of the increases in efficiency.

Beyond consistency with the vendor, these organizations have consistent practices in other areas of data management. They have consistent approaches to how they manage their data, how they leverage the system, and how they support the staff who manage the database.

This article originally appeared in the July 14, 2006 issue of Association Trends. Reprinted with permission.


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