What I Learned from EDM’s 2015 Association Data Management Benchmarking Survey

hbLast month I released the very first Association Data Management Benchmarking Survey. The survey features responses from nearly 170 associations of varying sizes, on a wide variety of data management issues. You can download your copy of the benchmarking survey here.

Here are my takeaways from the survey results:

  1. Associations need to formalize and operationalize data management. An amazing 78% of associations have no formal data management team. Two thirds (67%) of associations have one or fewer FTEs assigned to data management operations. That’s going to have to change in the future, especially as more systems are integrated to the AMS. Without a formal data management team in place, data management will always be seen as less-than-a-priority and often seen as “someone else’s job.”
  2. Only 4% of all the associations responding have their processes completely documented (although another 24% have their processes mostly documented). This means nearly ¾ of the associations surveyed do not have adequate documentation for how data is managed within the organization. For those without documentation, any processes being executed by multiple staff (e.g., if more than one staff person processes new membership or event registrations), are almost assuredly being done inconsistently. And with inconsistent processes will come inconsistent (and often useless) data. Associations need to do a better job of documenting their processes and sharing that information with all users.
  3. Nearly 1/3 (29%) of all associations rarely or never train their staff after initial training. This one was jaw-dropping and a strong indication of why many associations really struggle with their data management systems. By definition, AMSs are complex management systems. Expecting staff to be able to use the system correctly and effectively without training is akin to giving your 15 year old the keys to the car and saying “Teach yourself how to drive.” Yes, training can be tedious. But the alternative is much worse.
  4.  Nearly 60% of the associations surveyed have no disaster recovery plan in place. I love the old aphorism, “There are those who backup, and those who will.” The same is true for disaster recovery. If you don’t have a plan now, you’ll have one after the first disaster. So don’t wait for that to happen. 

One bit of good news: Most associations (67%) rate the accuracy of their data as good or excellent. That’s much higher than I would have expected, as many of the associations I talk with seem to think their data is in terrible shape. So maybe there is hope for us yet!

Not surprisingly, the areas where associations are weakest with data management is the pure administrative functions: documenting processes, training, and formalizing a data management team. If associations want to seriously leverage their data, they’re going to have to address these shortcomings in order to remain competitive. Associations will have to ensure staff are specifically assigned responsibility for maintaining the quality of the data, processes are documented, training is available, and disaster recovery plans are in place. Anything less is management malpractice.

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If you’d like to learn more about how EDM can help you with your data management challenges, contact me at (540)-338-9404 or email me at wes@effectivedatabase.com.

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