NetForum is a world-class AMS that does a terrific job managing membership data and supporting business-critical financial processing for associations and non-profits. I say this fully aware that this compliment is somewhat self-aggrandizing, given that Tim Ward (Gravitate’s CEO) and I were the original designers and developers of NetForum back in 2004, and it’s a pleasure to write about it now.
Since its release 15 years ago, NetForum has been the model that all other AMS systems have attempted to duplicate – web-based, thin-client and comprehensive – and the technology has successfully supported thousands of customers. Extremely significant is the fact that each client can configure and customize the solution to meet their specific needs while still remaining on the upgrade path so they can continue receiving all the valuable enhancements provided by Community Brands (CB).
One of the superb features of NetForum is that it has an open and comprehensive Application Programming Interface (API) for integrating it with other applications. NetForum has been connected to hundreds of applications, many of which CB supports within its upgrade portfolio, and others that clients (and their consultants) build and manage on their own.
For all its strengths, however, NetForum (as a transactional database system, which every single AMS is) is not well suited to cope with the massive and rapidly-growing volume of data that associations’ third-party systems are amassing. Research has found that at the typical association, only 20% of data is stored in the AMS, and that percentage is declining. Pulling all of this additional data into the AMS is not the answer, as they simply weren’t designed for it. NetForum is a phenomenal AMS, but data analytics is an entirely new challenge – and opportunity.
The Nucleus data analytics solution from Gravitate was designed precisely to fill this need – and Tim Ward, the architect of NetForum, was the perfect person to develop it. Nucleus takes full advantage of NetForum’s powerful API and delivers state-of-the-art data analytics and data insights, blending data from NetForum and all your other member-facing solutions such as e-marketing, social communities, learning management systems, Google Analytics, survey tools and more. Associations receive surprising insights once all member activity from all their different systems is brought together into the Nucleus data lake (which can handle massive amounts of data and still deliver sub-second response time).
Examples of analyses that are possible once data is blended together include: much more comprehensive total member value, much more comprehensive member engagement (and scoring), semantic analysis, and predictive analytics. Longtime association consultant Cecilia Sepp, CAE recently wrote about the benefits of blended data and provides additional examples.
Nucleus also makes it possible to provide much better historical reporting and analysis because transactional databases are designed to overwrite old data to stay current. By including “data snapshotting”, associations can analyze year-over-year activity of anything they wish at a single click and do such things as track the patterns of a member moving from one category to another over time.
Yet another benefit of Nucleus is the option to provide each individual member, at no extra cost, with personal charts and graphs. Use cases for Member-Facing Analytics include allowing members to see their individual test results and compare them to other members or whatever norms you choose – and perhaps also to recommend relevant training options.
As a Community Brands customer, your association is in an excellent position to take advantage of these benefits. It’s important for you to know that not all associations have this option! Many AMS vendors have policies that make it either cost-prohibitive (or impossible) for associations to access their own data for export and analysis.
Community Brands is a shining star in the association market with an open data policy that does not restrict its clients from accessing their data in any way. CB allows its clients to push and pull data from the system without charging them a usage fee. Given that the number of solutions that associations are using continues to expand (Marketing Technology Insights reports that “the average small business uses 14.3 systems— and that number keeps getting higher as the businesses get bigger.”), having free access to your own data in all these different systems is critically important.
Congratulations for being a CB customer and benefitting from their association-friendly data policies!
Many other AMSs and third-party applications in the association market charge their clients to access their own data, often under the pretext that a custom integration interface needs to be developed for each association. Hogwash! Free data access should become an important consideration for any association when selecting an AMS. Integrations are critical for associations to manage their business. They need to be able to pick the best-of-breed solutions, including making use of a data lake and maximizing the value of all their data, and they need to be able to share their data freely from one application to another.
As Community Brands CEO JP Guilbault wrote in a blog for Associations Now on Sept 6th, “Turning data into action is the most vital role of great leadership.” Take advantage of the open and healthy policies of Community Brands and let us (as the most passionate NetForum fans on the planet) show you how to better understand and better serve your members using all the data stored in all your member-facing applications. Given NetForum’s special place in our hearts, we hope that you will contact us for a conversation about how you can get more out of your NetForum investment by add powerful data analytics.