Today’s data landscape

It’s a simple fact that data proliferates over time. Organisations of all kinds gather more data every time there’s a click, a transaction or other interaction in the digital space.

The challenge for leaders is to make sure their teams are using this ever-growing bank of data effectively. That’s why a CRM system is needed which handles data in an efficient, usable and actionable form.

Databases have been used by membership organisations, associations, professional bodies and trade unions from the day they first keyed in names and addresses to their computers. It’s not uncommon to find legacy systems still in use decades after they were first installed, often patched up as far as possible to accommodate changing needs.

Like a much-loved old car, they might still do what’s broadly necessary and go from A to B, but they can be seriously limited in terms of efficiency and firepower. What’s more, options for external support for legacy systems – including upgrades – drop off as time marches on.

Older databases can also be hampered by out-of-date data. Without a pro-active approach to data cleansing, what might look like a data asset can become a data liability.

 

What goes wrong?

At MAST ICT, we get a clear view of the real-life data management issues faced by many membership organisations.

  • Manual systems are a prime concern. There’s in-built inefficiency in rekeying data, including the risk of inaccuracies or leaving out relevant information. If manual procedures are poorly documented, the situation gets even worse.

 

  • System interfaces are a frustration if they require multiple clicks or page visits to enter information. Data collection also becomes a headache if formats and types of data are not aligned with system requirements. Where there are multiple systems, they need to be properly integrated. We also see duplicate systems which leave users with a choice they shouldn’t be required to make.

 

  • Without robust design we see users mistrusting systems, and constantly checking that information has been loaded properly. Further inefficiencies arise with out-of-date documents and links, and document duplication. Matters deteriorate further if there’s insufficient training.

 

  • Last but not least, there’s the issue of reporting. Decision-makers need streamlined access to facts and figures. Any CRM and data system which fails to provide relevant, accurate and timely reports and dashboards is putting a brake on effective and efficient working.

All – or any – of the above can leave membership organisations with deep-seated challenges on efficiency and productivity. There’s also an impact on member retention and how professional the organisation looks to members.

 

The solution might not be what you expect

So where should an organisation’s leaders look for solutions?

The first instinct might be to start all over again with a brand-new database system. If the existing system is irretrievably riddled with flaws and is putting a stop on critical activities, that may be the path to follow. Inevitably, however, this means digging deep to finance a new system. That’s good news for external suppliers, but it may not be the best use of your time and money.

By contrast, we’ve found that in many cases improving a current system is a much more cost-effective and time-efficient way forward. For example, the growing use of APIs (Application Programme Interfaces) allows systems to ‘talk’ together and can significantly reduce the amount of rekeying required.

There are steps any membership organisation can take to make systems work better using their own resources. Thorough staff training by internal experts is one way forward. You can also take time out to identify key issues and think through whether there are straightforward, low-cost manual fixes that can be implemented.

If the situation has gone beyond what can be fixed internally, considering a skilled consultant is an option. The role of consultants is to give an external, expert view of your next steps. When you engage a consultant, you should look for:

  • experience in solving problems for membership organisations similar to yours
  • expertise in the systems you are using or are considering
  • best practice capability in solutions, including meeting security and legislative requirements
  • audit capability to identify issues that are problems.

 

What next? 

MAST ICT has a long track record of solving CRM and data problems for membership organisations, associations, professional bodies and trade unions. With a detailed knowledge of CRM and data technology in these sectors, we are able to help membership organisations improve their performance in member retention and engagement.

From English Heritage and The Royal Horticultural Society to Mother’s Union and The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, we have a strong track record as a valuable partner for all of our clients.

To arrange an initial chat please use the contact form on the website, or call us on +44 (0)1483 617224.

You are also warmly invited to visit us at Membership Excellence 2019 – the UK’s largest membership exhibition and conference. The location is the Novotel London West Hotel, the date is 2nd May 2019 and you’ll find us on Stand 21. For full details visit the MemberWise website. If you are visiting, we’ll provide you with a discount code, but please contact us first on +44 (0)1483 617224 for details. We hope to see you there.

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