What's On Your Mind – Results of My 2018 Two-Question Survey

It’s been a couple of years since I last asked associations about what issues they’re dealing with in data management, so I was very interested to see if any new issues have arisen since I last checked, and if the distribution of the types of issues raised has changed. So without further fanfare, here are the results from the 2018 survey.

I received 177 unique responses this year, which is a bit lower than year’s past, but close enough to make comparisons still useful. Based on those responses, here were the results, as I categorized them. I’ve commented on some of them below.

What’s on Your Mind?

The results look like this:

My thoughts:

Data hygiene – Clean data is a challenge no matter your organization’s size, industry served, number of members, number of records, or anything else. Keeping data clean will always be an issue. Always. So it’s not surprising to see it ranked first this time around. Some representative comments:

“Keeping member info current.”

“old, outdated data, and no process in place to clean it” (This is actually data hygiene and data governance. More below.)

System integration – Another perennial issue. Almost every association I work with has multiple data systems in place (think AMS, email system, third-party registration systems, advocacy systems, website, and on and on and on…). Integrating those systems for single-sign-on and sharing of key data is a constant challenge, but oh so critical to efficiency and effectiveness.

Data governance – This one is interesting to me in that the issue of data governance has always existed, but it hasn’t always been referred to as “data governance.” As in the quote above, it’s usually referred to as “process.” There’s more to data governance than just process, of course, but association execs are more often acknowledging that formal data governance is important, as evidenced by this sampling of comments:

“Lack of governance, lack of following SOPs.”

“Data is spread out in many different enclaves… Makes governance a challenge…”

Reporting – Another evergreen issue, reporting and querying is a fact of life in data management.

Privacy –  This response is new to the survey, but not a huge surprise given GDPR and all the excitement it generated this past year. Admittedly only three responses specifically referred to privacy, but I suspect if I had asked this question at the beginning of this year, as we were headed into GDPR’s official start date, that number would likely have been much higher.

Rate your data

The second question the survey asked was the following: “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the effectiveness of your organization’s data management (Note: This is how you would rate your organization, not how you think your organization compares to others.)”

The results:

The average was just over 5.3 (5 was “good enough”) but I was surprised to see that 30% of associations rated their data management effectiveness a 4, just below “good enough.”

Overall these numbers are a slight improvement over two years ago, so the trend is in the right direction, but still too many of us view our data management as not quite good enough.


I’m happy to see that data governance and data hygiene are top-of-mind for many associations. The simple fact is that these two issues will never go away. Part of the long-term process of managing data is making sure you now how to manage it (data governance) and then making sure you are managing it (data hygiene).

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