ASSOCIATIONS ARE FLUSH with data. Between the range of initiatives, to the content they create to all the touch points with members – associations often have more data then they can use. At the same time, with the rise of SaaS products that associations are leveraging, the data is getting more and more dispersed across systems, siloed away within each platform. Here are five reasons associations should prioritize data integration as a strategic initiative.
(1) Better Experience for Members
Associations recognize the need for a good online experience, but nothing ruins an online experience more than having your members re-key information they know they already gave you – never mind if your solution asks, “Are you a member?” Having a seamless online experience makes purchasing easier and removes barriers to driving revenue.
(2) Greater System Flexibility
While there are a range of association specific SaaS products, there are exponentially more solutions that don’t reside solely in the association space but can solve association challenges. But if an association asks, “Do you integrate with my customer database?” they’re likely to reply with, “Yes – we have an open API.” Which is code for, “Sure – do it yourself.” If you’re strategic, then you should be able to tackle this challenge. This may take the form of a middleware solution, or could be an Integration Partner who specifically handles connecting systems. Either way, an API is something you can embrace instead of dread.
(3) Faster System Implementations
Often overlooked in a new system selection, what data integrations an association needs with a system is critical for success. Things like member pricing, committee access, or course eligibility may all rely on data flowing between systems. Yet if data integration is an after though, solving these kinds of challenges will be difficult. Prioritizing data integrations will help avoid unexpected requirements, since the association is more likely to identify the issues in advance and have a plan for addressing them.
(4) Staff Task Automation
While the proof of concept is great with initiatives that only engage 10 members, having repetitive tasks for staff around your annual meeting or large programming events does not make sense. Having a data integration strategy ensures that staff don’t have to spend hours every week running processes that could otherwise be automated, delivering the data more frequently with lower chance of human error, while also removing monotonous tasks from staff, allowing them to think more strategically about the organization.
(5) Becoming Data Driven
Associations talk about being data driven, and often will share all this great information they have…spread across a range of systems. So reporting on that data requires significant effort from a staff member to compile information and generate charts – just don’t ever try to generate those same charts again! Having a data integration strategy can automate the movement of data into a centralized location so that reporting is real time and not labor intensive, allowing for true data driven decisions to be made at an association.
My grandfather used to say with regards to golf, “Driving is for show, putting is for the dough (money).” When it comes to an association’s online presence, having a redesign site or a new slick platform is great, but data will ultimately deliver value to the organization. Having a plan for managing the association’s data across systems is critical to your success in being able to deliver on your association’s mission.