Data…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Data…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

McKinley has been through a lot of changes recently, not the least of which was a major database overhaul. While time-consuming, tedious, and sometimes emotionally draining, we are all much better off for having gone through the process. Our data are now readily available, well-organized, and most importantly, collected and managed with an eye toward the most actionable and strategic data points. However, how do you decide exactly what is “actionable” and “strategic” when it comes to data?

This challenge is by no means unique to McKinley. Of course, we see most of our clients collect an overwhelming amount of information in their membership databases, but they are rarely able to pull key elements of this data together to drive organizational progress. Granted, many associations excel at gathering and maintaining accurate member records, as rock-solid data entry and management is critical to perform basic membership functions. However, we find that an abundance of ancillary data can often work against progress. Many of our clients simply become overwhelmed by the amount of information they gather, can’t separate the wheat from the chaff and find themselves stuck in an unproductive loop.

Here are some tips to help you be more strategic and actionable with your data:

  • Focus on quality over quantity. More data is generally better, but never at the expense of quality. A small amount of comprehensive and clean data will be much more effective in helping you identify trends than a wealth of spotty data.
  • Be both discerning and rigorous. Decide what key factors are important to making informed decisions. Once you’ve decided on these factors – commit to them and be rigorous in tracking and updating this information.
  • Practice flexibility, patience, and creativity. Challenge the status quo in how you collect and use your data. Just because it was done a certain way in the past doesn’t make it the best way today.
  • Audit your decisions. Which data have been used to support new initiatives? To inform decisions? To advance progress? Create an annual process to audit and analyze the return on investment from collecting various data points and adapt your procedures accordingly.