It’s been five years since I last ran my “two-question survey.” I was very curious to see if and how things had changed in that time. I was pleasantly surprised to see some improvements in a couple of key areas, as outlined below.
The first questions asks: “What’s on your mind for data management right now?” Based on the open-ended responses, I categorized the results as follows:
So what has changed in the past five years? Here are the conclusions I’ve drawn:
Two issues for data management are perennial, and they will never go away: clean data and having SOPs (standard operating procedures) and training. Not surprisingly, SOPs and training are directly related to clean data. That is, if you don’t have good SOPs and/or your staff is not well-trained on those SOPs, the likelihood of bad data increases dramatically.
Since the last survey five years ago (and certainly since I first started doing this survey nearly 20 years ago), several things have dramatically improved.
- Reporting was an issue for 16% of respondents in 2016, for 12% of respondents in 2018, and that has fallen to just 8% of respondents in 2023. I believe this reflects not only better technology (though not perfect, reporting tools are easier than ever to use) but more knowledgeable users. What I mean by that is more users have a better understanding of how data is related in their systems. This is a byproduct of databases becoming ubiquitous in almost all work done in associations.
- The challenges of integrations has decreased. Integrations accounted for 23% of respondents in 2016, 18% in 2018, and 16% this year. This is clearly a reflection of the improved technology as well as more experience among the service providers helping with integrations. My surveys (and other surveys) suggest the average association has eight integrations into its AMS. Obviously, these are important and both the technology and experience has dramatically improved over time.
- And finally, responses reflecting bad technology and poor vendors have decreased since last time, going from 11% of responses in 2018 to 9% this time around Bad technology and poor vendor service will always be an issue (i.e., they’re never going to completely go away) but it’s encouraging to see this becoming less of an issue.
The second question asked: “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 average ranking was a 5.6 (vs. 5.3 five years ago), so a slight but probably not significant improvement. Not surprisingly, most of us think we’re doing “good enough” on data management, but not quite “pretty good.” Like last time, no one said they were perfect, but two respondents gave themselves a score of 9 and nine respondents gave themselves a score of 8. That’s nearly 10% of all responses.
On the flip side, five respondents gave themselves a score of 1 and 14 respondents gave themselves a score of 3. On the “1” side, the theme was “no data management!” I particularly enjoyed this comment: “Decades worth of decisions to capture data that has resulted in countless duplicate records and mind-numbingly ineffective data points.”
On the “8-9” side the focus was on improving what is already good. The comments reflected how they’d like more time to improve their data management, e.g., “leveraging AI,” “Not enough staff on the vendor side to complete work requests from the association” and “Getting members to fill out or update their profile.”
I find it notable that 50% of the total responses reflect either data hygiene or data governance (although the term “data governance” was only mentioned in three of the responses). This, along with fewer challenges on reporting and technology outlined above, suggests to me is that a lot of associations have reached a level of maturity in their data management processes where the focus is less on remedial issues and more on improving the current state and really starting to use the data for management decisions. This is good news.