The five issues that received the most comments were:
Most of these issues are consistent with the previous three surveys. System integration, managing data, and data reporting are perennial issues with database management. One significant change from last years results: budgets/financial resources was barely mentioned; in its place is the need for staff with greater data management skills. Is this need for skilled labor a result of last years budget cuts?
With over 100 association executives from the US and Canada responding, here are the results, based on my analysis:
It did not surprise me to see that issues of integration were most prominent among the comments. Whether its integrating the database with the website, internal financial software, or other third party systems, integration is a challenge for many respondents. The good news here is that I consider integration a higher level problem. That is, if one of your primary concerns is integration, then youre probably operating your central database at a pretty high level of efficiency and sophistication. Here is a representative sampling of the comments received:
Data entry/data management 18%
Challenges with management of data is a perennial (and never-ending) issue with databases, of course. The database is only as good and only as useful as the data that is in it. So it doesnt surprise me that data entry and management issues are foremost for many respondents. Representative comments included:
As Ive outlined in many articles and blog posts, successful management of data is dependent on clearly established business rules, well-documented processes, and effective training. Ive worked with many of my clients on these issues, and one recommendation that seems to be very effective is to establish an internal power users group that meets on a regular bases (e.g., twice a month) to discuss any issues related to data management. My clients consistently report that these types of meetings are extremely useful for identifying underlying management issues, software bugs, and business process issues.
Reporting and customization 16%
Like data management, reporting and configuration are perennial issues. Customization and configuration allows users to collect the data they need to collect, and reporting allows users to extract that data in some useful manner. Representative comments included:
The data in the database is only useful if it can be extracted and used or analyzed. Ive worked with many clients over the years to help them identify what data needs to be extracted, how that data should be output, and how the client will use the data. There are plenty of tools and services available to assist with this, so if youre having troubles in these areas, you should explore your options with your vendor or a third-party consultant.
This topic includes any issues related to selecting and implementing a new AMS. I also included in this group those respondents who said, essentially, that they know their current system is inadequate, but have not made the decision to move to a new system. Implementation of new systems is always a challenge, as those who are in the middle of implementation know too well. Representative comments included:
As I often tell my clients, the best software in the world is wasted if the staff cant or wont use it. A successful implementation depends on user adoption. User adoption is dependent on buy-in from staff (senior management and front-line). Buy-in comes from identifying whats in the best self-interest of each user, so you need to spend time identifying what that is and explaining to users how the new system will make their job (or their life) better, easier, faster, or whatever most appeals to them.
This is the topic that surprised me, quite frankly. There were several comments related to staffing, in particular issues surrounding finding staff with the right skill set, and getting staff to take ownership of the data and the systems that manage the data. Representative comments included:
The rest of the responses (20%) fell into a broad array of issues, including centralizing data management, managing the physical hardware for the database, and supporting homegrown systems.
As in years past, the issues associations continue to grapple with are system integration, data management, and reporting. The good news is that with each passing year, two of these issues (system integration and reporting) become easier, with the advent of better technology. However, issues like data management and staffing reflect the need for having properly trained and thinking people involved in the daily management of the database.
Did you like this article? If you’d like to receive notice of articles like these as they are posted in the future, click here.