Getting to the Core of the Problem: Improving Your Constituent Record

  • Photo of Ata Akhlaghi
    Ata Akhlaghi

The Symptom: A Poor Core Constituent Record

Having a poor core constituent record—or an incomplete picture of the primary members and customers that drive an organization’s business—is detrimental to an association. An organization’s business revolves around their core constituency, so organizations with inconsistent or duplicate customer records are unable to make data-informed business decisions that will allow them to truly cater to their customers.

This issue has become more prevalent as technology in the association space has become more specialized. Twenty years ago, most organizations had one centralized association management system (AMS) to handle most of the organization’s needs. It was a simpler time with fewer requirements, fewer considerations, and fewer choices.

However, the landscape of technology in the 501(c) community has changed drastically in the last twenty years. Specialty products that focus on doing one thing well—like event registration, learning management, or content management—have surpassed the functionality of all-in-one-systems, and it’s nearly impossible to get by without utilizing a combination of systems together to handle your organization’s growing and evolving needs.

While the capabilities of these modern, specialized systems can outshine the capabilities of the AMS platforms of old, they present a challenge for organizations trying to keep a single complete record of their customers. With so many systems in play, it can be difficult to avoid data silos (i.e., separate, isolated collections of data). For example, if your users have separate logins to access your learning management platform and AMS, those two systems will track that data separately, leaving you with multiple records for each customer.

Even if you implement single sign-on (SSO), you may still encounter problems if you don’t integrate data between systems effectively. If your learning management platform doesn’t update core information in the record contained in your AMS, you may end up marketing certification opportunities to customers who have already completed those certification programs. As a result, you’d be wasting your own resources and creating a less satisfactory customer experience.

The Underlying Problem: Poor Data Governance

The expansion of the 501(c) technology sector has created more problems than just an overabundance of choice. More platforms to juggle means your business system ecosystem is more complex. A more complex ecosystem can increase the chances that data isn’t integrated properly across your platforms, which can complicate workflows, create a clunky user experience, and even cause you to replace your systems prematurely because you’ve misdiagnosed your problem.

All of these problems are symptoms of the same underlying condition—poor data governance. Without a strong data governance framework in place, poor integrations can cause data silos, which in turn can make your data—one of your greatest business assets—work against you.

The Treatment: An Effective Data Strategy

Improving your organization’s data governance requires making organization-wide improvements; it’s not as simple as implementing single sign-on or switching platforms. It requires having a data strategy and governance framework that aligns with your organization’s needs and business objectives.

You’ll need to identify your goals and desired outcomes, develop a data strategy, and design and implement a data governance framework informed by an organization-wide discovery process. As part of that framework, you’ll want to establish guidelines for your staff to maintain good data governance practices as well as empower a steering team to regularly track and enforce data policies.

While this process may sound daunting, with proper management and organization-wide participation it’s quite manageable. Start with the basics and iterate as you learn and grow. It may be valuable to revisit your overall IT strategy as well to ensure your technology is appropriately aligned with your business needs and priorities. If you get stuck, we’re always here to help. We have some additional resources listed below that may be useful as you begin to think about the needs of your organization.

For more information about how to improve your organization’s data governance or how DelCor can help, check out these resources:

Data Strategy & Governance Webpage

Data Governance in Action: How to Tame the Data Deluge & Make Better Decisions.

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