"That which no one owns, no one will care for"

I’ve seen this quote attributed to Aristotle, among others. Not sure who said it, but it rings true when it comes to database management.

I’ve long been an advocate of decentralized data entry. (See here and here.) But what’s missing in all of this is that while data entry can be decentralized, overall management of the system cannot. Because that which no one owns (or in the case of the data, all of us own), no one will care for.

What I’m seeing more frequently in associations is that job descriptions are including specific data management responsibilities. For example, I’ve seen things like the following included in job descriptions:

  • Develop and manage standard reports as needed for all staff throughout the association, producing reports when possible, or interfacing with technical consultants as needed. Exercise good judgment and sensitivity in understanding users’ evolving needs, to maximize the usefulness of the database.  Produce ad hoc reports as required, using SQL programming language to export data from the underlying database.
  • Work closely with the Director, Marketing to ensure all relevant data are being analyzed and used to maximum potential in marketing membership, workshops, publications, and other association products and services. As needed, collect additional data, either from members, or from outside sources related to institutional demographics.
  • Primary responsibility for management of all facets of dues billing and collection.
  • Manage collection and entry of full contact and relevant demographic data related to members, potential members, and non-members, ensuring the continual and smooth flow of information from association staff to appropriate recipients.
  • Play a key role in managing database-user relationships. Work closely with internal staff on the use of the information management system, and the continued improvement of data collection and data entry procedures. This includes communicating with all users on a regular basis to ensure that feedback on data accuracy and system functionality is being received and acted upon in a timely manner.

By putting this information specifically in one or more job descriptions, the association is holding this position responsible for data management in critical areas. This is one step closer to creating “ownership” of the database.

About Wes Trochlil

For a quarter century, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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