I had the pleasure of co-hosting a webinar on business intelligence with Wes Trochlil, President of Effective Database Management earlier this week. Wes is a terrific speaker, he runs a great association consulting practice, and I love that he’s passionate about business intelligence (BI). Wes speaks and blogs tirelessly about BI. His main message during the webinar: BI can be a powerful tool to increase revenue, decrease costs and spot member trends.
Wes’ definition of BI is pretty simple: Business Intelligence is a management process for using data to make decisions. He shared case studies of organizations that analyzed their membership and meetings data to learn which member segments are most engaged, most likely to renew their membership, and most likely to register for meetings. For example, one association measured member engagement across 36 variables. The association found that companies in the top 30th percentile of engagement renewed at 100%, while the bottom 30% were not likely to renew. Even more profound, the engagement variable that mattered most were related to serving on a committee, writing a paper, or presenting at a conference. So the association developed a strategy to encourage more participation in the areas that seem to matter most when it comes to member retention.
The case studies were incredibly compelling. So why don’t more organizations invest in BI?
Wes says most organizations are fearful of BI and are reluctant to become data-driven because of FEAR: Fear of not doing it right, Fear of making mistakes and getting in trouble for it, Fear of data contradicting conventional wisdom, Fear of having to change behavior. Here’s where leadership comes in. Strong leaders need to have the courage to see the data for what it is, allow staff to experiment with new initiatives based on what the data is telling you, acknowledge that mistakes will happen, and not let conventional wisdom get in the way of innovation.
So how do you go about creating a data-driven organization? Wes and I shared our tips:
- Identify the data that is MOST useful to your organization, have a plan for collecting that data and make sure you actually ACT on that data
- STOP collecting data you’re not using!
- Identify what data you have, who manages it now, and where that data is kept
- If data is in multiple sources (it almost ALWAYS is), determine your process for getting key data from those multiple sources into a single source for analysis
- Involve your membership database or CRM vendor; ask your vendor what reports are available and what other organizations are doing
- Revisit all your processes at least once annually
The irony is that while most organizations fret about the data, most already have the reports and searches they need to get started with BI. Changing an organization’s culture to pay attention to the data and then acting on it can be time-consuming and most definitely requires a culture and process shift.