Guest post by Mary Davis, Product Marketing Manager, Cobalt

Canned Reports Only Get You So Far…

Every AMS comes with canned reports; prebuilt reports meant to save time for the end user. These reports are inherently generic and are intended to provide standard statistics for associations: how many active members did we have over a given timeframe, what is our renewal rate, etc.

If your data analysis needs fit into the generic setup of these reports, they are useful starting metrics; they give you a way to monitor some of your organization’s vital signs.

But where’s the report for, “what are we not doing that we should be doing” or “what is threatening our retention rate”? 

There is no canned report to answer questions like these.

And without getting answers to these questions, you won’t know there’s a threat or opportunity until it’s too late, until your vital signs are already in the danger zone.

This is the stuff that requires analysis, it’s the stuff that businesses outside of Association Land have invested billions of dollars in, because according to survey results, the answers can lead to faster, more accurate reporting, analysis or planning; better business decisions; improved employee satisfaction and improved data quality. 

This is why a recent Gartner survey found that CIOs ranked analytics and business intelligence as the top differentiating technology for their organizations.

Think More Like A Commercial Business…

You know this part: the internet offers a marketplace of rapid solutions to problems that – thanks to social media – have more of a voice than ever before. Expectations for the newer, louder consumer continue to grow as fast as solutions are being developed. In this climate, associations find themselves having to prove their value by responding to members’ evolving needs in a way that they didn’t have to before.

And so, as it’s been said again and again by leaders like Adam Wasserman, associations need to start thinking more like commercial businesses.

Commercial Businesses Are Seeing A Shift In How They Report On Data…

Business intelligence has traditionally been run by IT professionals and driven by IT-produced reports. This meant that to get answers to probing questions, you needed a team of IT people in a back room manipulating data to give you answers. And you had to pay those people. Most associations couldn’t make that kind of investment.

But according Gartner, business intelligence, like everything else, has shifted to become more consumer friendly. The focus is now on self-serve analytics; organizations should foster self-reliance and less dependence on the IT department and developers. Business users themselves require easier access to data for analysis.

Take Advantage Of The Shift: Get An AMS With BI Offerings And ANALYZE YOUR DATA!

So, good news Association Land! This shift means there are affordable, self-serve analysis tools out there that will take you way beyond canned reports. 

If your AMS isn’t giving you the tools you need to analyze multi-source data yourself, and you aren’t planning on moving to another AMS anytime soon, there are tools out there that can fill this gap, such as Tableau or Microsoft Power BI. Of course, you’ll want to start thinking about budget, deployment, intended users, and features. Some of these tools include free trials so you can try them out with no commitment.

If you are in the market for a new AMS, check out enterprise CRM-based platforms. Major players like Microsoft and Salesforce include robust analytics out-of-the-box and integrate with more sophisticated BI tools for analyzing data across multiple sources.

At the end of the day, what you can learn from your data is worth the undertaking.

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