Becoming a data-driven association

Shepherd Smith

June 18, 2021

    What does it take to become a data-driven association? Read on for real-world tips on using data to deliver positive impact throughout your organization.  

    Associations are learning how to take fuller advantage of their most powerful asset: vast amounts of member data.

    Insights from this data can help your entire organization make more informed decisions and deliver a better overall experience for your members. Being a data-driven organization can also help you streamline your operations and anticipate future needs for your organization and your members. 

    What does it take to be a data-driven organization? 

    Harvard Business Review article points to an executive survey of Fortune 1000 and industry leading firms that shows 99 percent reported investments in data and artificial intelligence (AI). This investment suggests that companies see the potential value in becoming data driven.  

    However, the same survey shows that firms continue to struggle to derive value from their data and AI investments:

    • Only 29.2 percent report achieving transformational business outcomes. 
    • Just 30 percent report having developed a well-articulated data strategy.  
    • A mere twenty-four percent of respondents said that they thought their organization was data-driven this past year, a decline from 37.8 percent the year before. 

    The reason is primarily related to business culture challenges. In the 2021 survey, 92.2 percent of companies report that they continue to struggle with cultural challenges relating to organizational alignment, business processes, change management, communication, people skill sets, and resistance or lack of understanding to enable change. This represents an increase from 80.9 percent of firms that named cultural challenges as the greatest impediment to success four years ago.  

    What does all of this mean for associations? 

    There are lessons associations can learn from leading for-profit companies when it comes to becoming data driven. Let’s take a look at three recommendations from the Harvard Business Review article and align practical techniques for applying them to your association: 

    • Focus data initiatives on clearly identified high-impact business problems or use cases. By starting where there is a critical business need, you can demonstrate “quick wins” that help the organization realize value, build credibility for investments in data, and use this credibility to identify additional high-impact use cases to build business momentum.  

      Your association can use something like the Nucleus analytics functionality in NetForum Cloud –  to select where you want to begin so you can prove the value of data analytics in one department or program (for example: membership retention, new member acquisition, conference attendance, or non-dues revenue) before introducing data analytics to other functions. 

    • Reexamine ways that you think about data as a business asset. It must be managed from capture and production through its consumption and utilization at many points along the way. 

    Your association can use Nucleus to pull data in near real-time from all of your critical systems across your organization and aggregate them. Then, you can use this comprehensive and always-current data to gain insights from multiple data points to positively impact the entire organization. 

    • Commit to data-driven transformation. Investments in data governance, data literacy, and programs that build awareness of the value and impact of data within the organization represent a step in the right direction. But remember that data-driven transformation can be a long-term process.  

    Your association can build data transformation into your work culture by providing leadership and staff in each department with tailored dashboards that provide regular data insights into the functional areas they oversee. This gives your organization the power to make more informed decisions that quickly deliver a return on investment.   

    For example, the Nucleus dashboards in NetForum make it easy for you to become a data-driven organization because they’re self-explanatory and encourage exploration of data through easy-to-use filtering and segmenting. Also, the Nucleus online data glossary explains the purpose and significance of the underlying data so staff can easily understand the value of the data. 

    Take the next step 

    Discover how your organization can see quick wins and rapid cultural acceptance through use of a data analytics solution developed specifically for associations – one with dashboards for all levels of staff and various functional areas: Learn More about NetForum Cloud and Nucleus Analytics. 


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