August 24, 2017

Turning Data Into Action

Turning Data Into Action

Recently I had the pleasure of attending ASAE’s Annual Meeting & Expo in Toronto. In addition to re-visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame, I had the opportunity to have several exciting conversations and attend numerous sessions across different tracks. Every one of these conversations and sessions had one topic in common: data.

The concept of the data-driven association is nothing new. We’ve been hearing that term for years, and the association space long ago recognized the value. Much of what I’ve heard in the subsequent years was about collecting data, storing data, and managing data. And although these continue to be important topics for associations, this year we started to hear something new. As I heard from an audience member in one session, “We’ve transitioned from having no data to having a lot of data, but how do we turn it into action?” I loved this question. Based on the other sessions and conversations it felt like it articulated the current state of many associations.

"We've transitioned from having no data to having a lot of data, but how do we turn it into action?"


And now, in a sort of echo from years past, a new term is becoming prevalent: analytics.

When the process of becoming data-driven first started, associations recognized the AMS as a place where they could begin to centralize data. As an enterprise database, this was a logical choice. As I heard in one session about centralizing data, “the AMS is the price of admission”. However, an AMS is a designed to help an association and their members operate day-to-day by processing transactions as efficiently as possible. Consequently, its reporting capabilities can only be used to answer one question: what happened?

Think of analytics as the next step in the journey of turning data into action. Analytics is the process of looking at what happened and how patterns change over time to help answer a different question: why did this happen?

And that answer is the key. Once you can formulate an opinion on why something happened you can take action to make it happen again, or to change it. You can see the results of those actions, adjust, and adapt. Repeating this process over and over gives you “validated learning” and this is what allows you to confidently answer the real question: what will happen?

This is truly turning data into action. So, how do you get started with analytics? Well, there’s a good chance your organization is running them today. Perhaps your board or executive director has identified a question such as “Is our new program improving our retention rates?” You would then identify the metrics, a collection methodology, and frequency - perhaps a monthly report on active members scheduled from your AMS for automatic delivery to your e-mail. At the end of the year you would combine this data into a single spreadsheet, filter, apply some formulas, and maybe even add a chart to visualize the trend of this data.

Analytics is the process of looking at what happened and how patterns change over time to help answer a different question: why did this happen?


Collecting, storing, calculating, surfacing, and visualizing this information is analytics. Even the highest performing organizations go through these same steps. They simply use technology and automation to go through this process from question to answer with as little manual intervention as possible. This creates a very fast “cycle time” and the faster you can go from question to answer, the faster you can try something new, see the results, and create even more “validated learning”. Imagine being able to watch your event pacing compared to prior events daily, make adjustments to registration windows, see the impact, and adjust again until you are projected to surpass your registration goal.

As we talk more about analytics, we’ll explore the technology and techniques that allow high performing organizations to complete this cycle and create validated learning as quickly as possible. For now I’m excited to hear so many associations are embracing this challenge and continuing to take the data driven association into the future.


We're introducing MemberSuite Insights on September 27th & you're invited!



Calling any and all association professionals that are looking to become truly data-driven. This September, MemberSuite is inviting you to our webinar to introduce Insights, our new analytics platform.

Join us on September 27th at 2:30pm (ET).

Jim Catts

Jim Catts is the Chief Technology Officer at MemberSuite.

More Posts