Virginia Graves is a senior product owner at Association Analytics
Data guides so many aspects of our lives and is essential to running a successful organization, especially in changing times. Here are top tips to ensure that your association is optimizing data to make good decisions and achieve the best results.
Data is a powerful asset to have when facing new challenges. COVID-19 provides the perfect example: Medical experts and government authorities monitor things like virus positivity rates and use that data to inform decisions on health and safety. In many aspects of life, people have become used to fact-checking information and asking to see the data before they make decisions.
In organizations, leaders are having to make difficult decisions to stay afloat during a challenging period for the economy. Executive teams and boards of directors are asking for better data to optimize results and adapt to changes in the market.
As the need to make quick data-informed decisions in an ever-changing environment takes priority, organizations can’t wait for the perfect data to come along.
Looking ahead, it’s clear that data and analytics will continue to play an important role in achieving organizational outcomes. Associations looking to set their staff up for success should continue to think about how they can foster a data culture within their organizations.
Building a data culture means providing staff at all levels with the data they need and creating the expectation that data will be used to support decisions. Organizations need to work on improving data literacy across their entire staff, and leaders should champion the use of data in everyday decisions. This type of culture relies on staff members’ ability to use business intelligence tools that make data transparent and accessible.
A data culture relies on a nimble, real-time data infrastructure through self-service business intelligence tools that are easy to use and accessible to everyone. The tools you use should create a real-time and flexible data ecosystem. Real-time data ensures that you will be able to make fast, relevant decisions. Flexibility ensures that you can pivot when you need to, as your needs may change at any time.
The pandemic has created new challenges for organizations, and many are thinking differently about their data. As they do, here are three keys to successful use of data that association leaders should keep in mind.
Data doesn’t need to be perfect. As the need to make quick data-informed decisions in an ever-changing environment takes priority, organizations can’t wait for the perfect data to come along. Decisions should be made using the best combination of available, high-quality data and data insights.. Because the pandemic’s impact is constantly evolving, leaders need to think creatively about using third-party data and proxy variables, along with sound assumptions. The future of data analytics will emphasize creativity and working effectively with what is available and accessible.
Balance short-term and long-term metrics. Traditionally, key performance indicators (KPIs) have focused on showing progress over years. However, having KPIs that track incremental progress over shorter periods—like months and quarters—will be important as associations switch to more short-term planning. A good short-term indicator should be directly related to long-term KPIs and will ultimately show if an organization is on track to hit its long-term targets.
Define success differently. The baseline data traditionally used by organizations to measure success is less relevant today. This is a challenge, but it also presents an opportunity to create a new definition of success and set new baseline metrics or reference points. New baselines should be flexible. They might be ranges now, instead of single data points, or they might be based on a general trend rather than a specific target. Expect that these reference points will evolve as the market changes.
With many associations looking to test new initiatives and sunset under-performing programs, data can be an asset to evaluating those programs’ effectiveness. Leaders can use this time to implement both tactical and strategic change. Building a data culture can help to identify new opportunities to increase revenue and, at the same time, deliver more value to members by better understanding their needs in the moment.