July 12, 2018

Business Intelligence: The Myths and the Realities

Business Intelligence: The Myths and the Realities

Guest Post by Wes Trochlil

I first wrote about business intelligence (BI) more than ten years ago on my blog (and have written about it dozens of times since). BI had exploded in the for-profit sector and many associations were becoming interested in what BI had to offer.

Ten years later, the uptake in business intelligence tools is finally starting to catch on in a serious way in the association market. Following are some myths and realities about BI and how BI might be able to help your association.

First, a definition of business intelligence is. I like this one from financesonline.com. “Business Intelligence (BI) refers to the tools, technologies, applications and practices used to collect, integrate, analyze, and present an organization’s raw data in order to create insightful and actionable business information.” So BI is not just technology, but also practices.

Myth: BI is just glorified reporting

Reality: Like any tool, if the user doesn’t know how to use it, it won’t be very effective. BI tools, if not used as intended, can certainly become a glorified report writer. If you’re only looking back at data, without thinking about how the data can help you predict future behavior, then your BI tool will become a glorified reporting tool. BI, properly applied, can help you understand things like where your best members come from, what your meeting registrants are looking for, and what your product buyers want from your organization.

Myth: BI is very expensive and therefore only for large associations

Reality: This may have been true years ago, but like all maturing technologies, prices have come down while functionality has improved. What were once very complex tools that only IT whiz kids could operate with lots of hardware horsepower has now been pushed to the desktop and simplified for use by non-techies.

Myth: The ROI on BI doesn’t justify its costs

Reality: Don’t be fooled; there are costs involved with implementing a BI tool and strategy. There will be both direct costs (software, consulting) as well as indirect costs (staff time). But as noted above, both direct and indirect costs for BI tools have dropped dramatically in the past several years. The results from a single analysis of your data could easily pay for itself (e.g., increased membership or event attendance). [Note: MemberSuite’s BI tool, Insights, starts working immediately with the flick of a switch, with no lengthy implementation times. Plus, it has dashboards available out of the box with no customization necessary.]

Myth: Better BI technology will give me better intelligence

Reality: Maybe. But you’ve got to have good data to analyze, and you’ve got to have good processes in place to maintain the quality of that data over time. As the definition above suggests, BI isn’t just about technology, but also about data management practices.

Business intelligence is not a “cure all” for poorly managed data. But if you’ve got good control of your current data, and you see market opportunities for growing your organization, then BI might be the right move for you.

Bio: Wes Trochlil, president of Effective Database Management, is the most published author on data management in the association market. For nearly 30 years, Wes has worked in and with over 200 associations, non-profits, and membership organizations throughout the US, Canada, and Australia. Wes has helped organizations select and implement data management systems, as well as using the database and data for improved marketing and communications, and advancing the organization’s mission.