You Need More than Good Data to Make Good Decisions

May 18, 2021
Dray McFarlane
You Need More than Good Data to Make Good Decisions

Getting good information is more than about static numbers that tell you what is happening in your association. Association leaders that are really focused on growth will tell you that the ultimate goal of data is to allow you to improve business outcomes. That means that information you collect now should help you do both in the present AND the future.

A recent 2021 data management survey of organizational leaders from Experian showed that:

  • 95% have been negatively impacted from poor data execution (e.g., reputation, analytics, and user experience impacts).
  • 84% say the need for data insights is greater now to achieve business goals.
  • 63% see data management and execution becoming more urgent.

So we all know that data is important. But without understanding the context behind what you need from data and why, odds are that you or someone in your association leadership team is making decisions based on information that isn't helping you to move towards your goals. And there's no guarantee that even with the right data they are making decisions that are helping your association membership.

In order to make data work in your favor, you need to understand the context behind your data and have a plan for how that information will help you make decisions.

Data execution and decision-making

People think that good data is a silver bullet for good decision-making. In reality, data is only useful if it helps you do something new, quicker, or better.

In reality, data is only useful if it helps you do something new, quicker, or better.

How then can you transform data into useful information? What is required to turn the digital information your association is collecting into a business asset?

To make data an asset, you need good data execution. There are 4 main ingredients to good data execution:

  1. The quality of your data is high (aka “good data”).
  2. It’s easily accessible.
  3. It supports the needs and vision of your organization.
  4. You have the right human capabilities and processes to act on that information.

Without these four ingredients, data will provide limited returns on investment, which is something we hear association leaders complain about day in and day out.

The truth is, most organizations are underinvested in collecting the right data and empowering their people and processes to use it effectively for quick, powerful decision-making.

What does good data execution mean for associations?

Good data execution is more than a nifty dashboard.

A cool dashboard may make you feel like you’re in a movie; there’s lots of shiny, blinking lights and sparkles, but it’s worthless if the information is not actionable.

What matters is:

  1. The right data is at your fingertips for easy access and sharing association-wide.
  2. This information is actionable based on the needs and goals of your association.
  3. The decisions made and strategies formed from this data facilitate business objectives.

In other words, what are the questions and challenges your organization is trying to answer using data? And is your data fit for these needs?

The first step is to make a list of things you want to know about your data department by department. For example, you may want your data to answer things like:

  • Which members are likely to leave, but will stay if we reach out to them?
  • Which registrants came to the annual conference last year but are unlikely to attend this year unless we give them a discount or special offer?
  • Which members are engaging online or in a forum? The information they’re discussing can be used to create targeted communications that get them even more engaged.

Your different departments have diverse data demands and may need to use data in ways they can’t clearly pinpoint right off the bat. Meeting these challenges requires some brainstorming and team discussions to identify departmental data needs, limitations, and priorities.

Need for “Design Thinking”

Establishing your data needs requires us to start with the end user in mind and then use data to fill in the steps. Think of it as design thinking for your information.

Good questions to ask:

  1. What are the goals of our members?
  2. What are the issues our members face?
  3. What is stopping members from completing vital actions?

For example, you know that your members want to improve their skill level through your association. So, one big question you need your data to answer is which of your members have actually leveled up at their job or in their profession during their membership. Then, look at your data to see which members have improved over the last three years. Which have increased their earning potential, gotten raises, received recognitions or certifications, or advanced in their career path in some way? This analysis will help you see correlations—through data like members’ activity levels, CE courses attended, books they’ve purchased, etc.

Once you've done all that leg work, you'll be able to design an action path for members who are on a similar trajectory. Instead of making decisions about courses, events, and membership fees based on static data, you are actually designing a pathway for growth for your members that will lead to higher engagement and more value for them personally.

RELATED ARTICLE>> 4 Signs It's Time to Outsource Your Association's Data Analytics

Executing on your data

Making good decisions and executing on data effectively requires us to keep our data human-centered (member-oriented) and aligned with our business objectives. To do so, we need to ensure our people are capable of balancing judgment and analysis, effectively taking the data we have and making decisions that are pointed towards action that leads to increased personal value to the members. It's also vital to have the right processes in place to keep pace with the information we collect and the shared goals we’re trying to achieve as an organization.

Learn more about data execution and how to best use your data to drive good decision-making in our recorded webinar, Is My Data Good Enough?

Dray McFarlane

Follow us on social media