The Data-Friendly Association

For the past 18 years, I’ve been consulting with associations of all sizes on their data management issues. One thing I’ve observed over the years is that those associations that are most successful with their data management are those where all the staff, from the CEO or executive director on down, is highly engaged with the data. Everyone knows what’s going on when it comes to data management. They ask questions that demonstrate they care about how the data is managed, and what data is managed.

I call these organizations data-friendly associations. Data-friendly associations understand that managing and using data effectively will help advance the organization’s mission.

I’ve found that data-friendly associations exhibit some consistent behavior, which I’ve outlined below.

The data-friendly association:

  1. Understands their mission and how the data supports that. This is key. Every piece of data managed should, in one way or another, support the organization’s mission.
  2. Knows where their data is. In today’s association, data exists in many different locations; the AMS, broadcast email tools, LMS, spreadsheets, third-party systems, etc. You have to know where all of your data is in order to use it most effectively.
  3. Knows who is responsible for the data. Every piece of data that is managed has to have an internal owner, someone who is responsible for the integrity of that data.
  4. Makes the data transparent to the organization. Whether it’s through dynamic dashboards or weekly spreadsheets sent to all staff, the data-friendly association is sharing its information internally (and where appropriate, externally) on a frequent and consistent basis. There are no secrets when it comes to the data.
  5. Takes action on the results of their data analysis. This may be the most important aspect of a data-friendly association. Based on the information provided by the data, what action is being taken? A data-friendly association never collects and reports on data just because it’s “interesting.” They take action on the data.
  6. Periodically reviews what is being measured and adjusts as necessary. Data management is a process, not an event. It never stops. And your needs and objectives as an association will evolve over time. The data you were collecting and analyzing two years ago may no longer be relevant.

The data-friendly association takes the time to review what is being measured and makes changes as appropriate. Data-friendly associations understand the value of well-managed data and how that can positively affect the organization’s mission. So are you working in a data-friendly association? And if you’re not, what can you do to change that?

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