How Associations Can Craft Their Data Integration Strategy

As any business or organization continues to grow, so does the volume and complexity of data they retain.

In order to turn data into something meaningful, the reliability of data is a concern for any association. The fact is that the future will inevitably invoke changes that will only make the process of data integration even more challenging.

Implementing a data integration strategy is crucial to avoid complications down the road and to help ensure that your association has the most accurate data possible. A fully-realized data integration strategy is important to the process of data lifecycle management, giving structure to the flow of data, and creating guidelines for how data will be maintained over time.

In order to take steps towards crafting a strategy for your association, it’s best to start with an understanding of the best practices of data integration and how this process can have long-term benefits.

What is Data Integration?

When you consider the sheer amount of data your association must contend with, it’s important to keep in mind that all of this information is rarely stored in a single database or format. Data integration is what happens when information from multiple sources is consolidated in a single location.

Organizations that utilize multiple software solutions often run into problems because these systems are seldom compatible with one another — leading to the complexity of consolidating data.

When an association adapts and grows, so do the demands on their information systems. Over time, data may take on different forms as priorities shift within the organization.

A proper data integration strategy must be flexible and adaptable to accommodate data of multiple formats, regardless of whether it lives in the cloud or on-premises. Essentially, this type of strategy aims to find solutions which deliver trusted data from a variety of sources.

Benefits of a Data Integration Strategy

One of the methods of making data both actionable and informative is having a central location where this information is easily accessible. Not all organizations have the same needs or amounts of data, but ensuring that all data is accessible is a universal concept.

The largest and most apparent benefit of having a data integration strategy relates to how easy access to data can lead to better decision-making. More importantly, data integration empowers associations with a 360° view of their association membership, leading to more revenue down the road.

For example, say your association is maintaining a membership database that hasn’t been properly maintained in several years. Working out of legacy systems such as these are not only time-consuming, they fail to provide proper reporting capabilities. When you also consider that data is not being integrated from multiple sources, there could be massive insights you’re missing out on because you don’t have complete visibility.

Another benefit of having a data integration strategy is that it can help reduce the complexity of your data. Data integration is about managing complexity and creating a simple method to deliver data to, and through, any system.

Lastly, the integration of data can streamline operations, increase productivity, and help forecast future needs for any association. Data integration is how associations can leverage their data to make the best business decisions for the organization as a whole.

Data Integration Best Practices

Despite all of the benefits of data integration, a report by Experian revealed that 66% of businesses lack a coherent, centralized data strategy. Here’s a look at a few of the best practices for data integration.

Start Small, Gradually Ramp Up

When getting started, the amount of data and considerations that come along with it can be somewhat overwhelming. The first place to start is by taking stock of all the different data sources your association has access to, while also reviewing your organization’s existing method of data collection. Provided that you have the proper data collection approach, you can then focus on where your data is coming from.

Establish a Systemic Data Governance Approach

Associations need to put policies in place that can determine a given set of data’s use, ownership, compliance, and anything else which may be relevant. The idea is to protect your data and ensure that as it moves from one system to another the policies are consistently enforced.

Keeping Up With Trends

Many years ago, some of the emerging trends included cloud technology, Internet of Things (IoT), and big data — all of which continue to be areas of increasing importance across the globe. The value of data will only continue to grow, and so will the complexity.

Staying cognizant of trends can go a long way toward adapting your data integration strategy to fit the ever-changing technology landscape.

Modernizing Legacy Systems

Older or “legacy” systems aren’t exactly future-proof, so it may be worth considering an approach to replace those systems with more modern technology.

You can start gradually replacing legacy systems since this is a lot less risky and allows your organization’s costs to be adjusted accordingly. On the other hand, if you continue with your legacy systems, you run the risk of utilizing a set of disjointed systems, applications, and processes that won’t be able to communicate with one another efficiently.

Diving Into Data Integration

Getting immersed in your data integration strategy will feel daunting at first, but the benefits are far too powerful for your association to ignore it. Your strategy for integrating your data is an essential link between information and insight.

Data integration frees up time to concentrate on analysis and forecasting while also contributing to the overall reliability and hygiene of your data.

The important first place to start is by assessing just how much data you need to be consolidating. This means not only considering data from sources such as your CRM software, but for any data source, as it can get quite complex with more systems thrown into the mix.

The ultimate goal of your strategy is to establish rules for how your data is collected, where your data is captured, what disparate datasets exist that your organization needs to connect, and what tools or services are needed to combine your data into a single database.

Author Bio

Christina Wells is Director of Corporate Marketing at Omatic Software where she leads demand generation programs to drive awareness and interest in the Omatic brand and product suite. Christina holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from Northeastern University and a Master of Science Degree in Internet Marketing from Full Sail University. A self-proclaimed “east coast floater,” Christina is a Philadelphia native who now calls Charleston, SC home.

Personalized Learning: Who, What, and Why Does It Matter?

What if we were to say, companies like Netflix and Amazon are your organization’s biggest point of competition?

For some, this statement may catch them off guard and not quite make sense. However, contrary to common beliefs, your association’s primary competitors are not the other associations in your field, nor the for-profit training companies you compete with, or even the local organizations who make networking opportunities readily available to your audience.

Instead, your primary competitors are very likely the same companies YOU consume products from. They are the companies you enjoy working with because of the convenience they offer you, the intuitive and user-friendly experience they provide time and time again, the amazing way in which they always seem to know exactly what you are looking for, and the ways in which they continually engage you with new products and benefits.

So, whether a clothing website recommends new products to purchase based on what you’ve previously bought, a restaurant app is suggesting new restaurants based on where you last ate, or a media app is suggesting a new television show to watch based on what you were previously watching – personalization seems to be falling behind in the eLearning world.

This means that your audience may start looking to those primary competitors of yours who you wouldn’t have previously thought were primary competitors, because your members like their personalized approach. What can you do to make sure your organization remains an industry leader and a top provider of education in your industry?

1. Who

Your learners! Their learning behavior is changing. In our webinar, Professional Learning in the Era of Amazon and Netflix, we cover some of these changes. They include:

  • Binge learning and content consumption
  • Utilizing tools to save my interests
  • Expecting specialized content and generic content in one place
  • Provide what I want, when I want it (not when it is available)

Yes even though behaviors are changing, your learners will view the content you are putting out if they have a high interest in the topic(s). Yes, they will view the content you are putting out if there are credits or certificates attached that they need in order to keep their certifications or designations. However, they don’t want to simply know what they are watching or learning about; they want to know why they are. Provide them some context that makes the journey feel a bit more personalized. And the more learners you have viewing your content, the more likely they are to recommend it to others – adding another layer of personalization.

2. What

This might be an obvious one, but it’s tough to have an eLearning program without utilizing technology. What you might not realize is that not all technology is created equal and having the right platform(s) in place can make a difference in the personalized experience a learner receives. You can utilize your learning management system for things such as:

  • Courses – customizing your courses by adding a variety of different components rather than single pieces of content allows you to enhance the end user experience
  • Groups – allowing learners to follow specific curriculums and learning pathways based on their group permissions.
  • Discussion Boards – allowing learners to interact with one another and discuss different events, courses, and presentations.
  • Reporting – analyzing learner data and using this information to draw correlations between learners and content and changes and improvements that can be made to future courses.

While your LMS is very important when it comes to eLearning, there is a good chance your LMS is integrated with an association management system. Having an integration should immediately make a more seamless experience for your end user, and increase the amount of personalization they can receive as your association management system should hopefully be able to offer advanced personalization features such as:

  • Seamless access to the LMS through Single Sign-On
  • Early access to event registration
  • Exclusive invitations to events
  • Coupons for your online store
  • Discounted membership renewal

The best software can also apply variable pricing rules based on the details in your member profiles, which can greatly improve the member experience. All of these items, and more, will continue making your end users feel like they are getting that personalized experience that they have become accustomed to and are expecting.

3. Why (does it matter?)

To kick off the year, we had a company-wide meeting at our headquarters where our big focus was our “why” – as an individual, a department, and the company as a whole. By understanding our “why”, it enables our team to start the day motivated and be inspired to drive forward our mission. Just like a company’s employees need their own “why”, your learners do too!

While the “why” of learning is typically an easy one to realize, it is important to try and bring out a bigger “why” whenever a learner is taking a course. It will allow the learner to identify the higher purpose of the activity so that the satisfaction won’t just be for completing the course and receiving the certificate, but instead for increasing their knowledge and spending the time to become a more educated person in their field.

Taking that a step farther, the more involved someone becomes with the eLearning your organization offers, the more likely they may become involved with the community aspect of your organization as well. If your members feel a strong sense of belonging and allegiance to your association, potential members will be able to feel it – and they will want to be part of it. This close feeling of community is some of the best marketing your association’s membership program could ever hope for. Coupled with a personalized learning experience, you’ll be able to position your association as the industry-leader in your field.

While you plan out your eLearning programs for the coming months, make sure to pay attention to the level of personalization your platforms and materials are providing your members to ensure they will keep coming back for more!

Author Bio

Jocelyn Fielding – Director, Marketing & Sales Operations

Jocelyn is responsible for all marketing activities at Blue Sky eLearn, as well overseeing sales from an operational standpoint. She has over 10 years of experience in sales and marketing, with 7 of those years being spent at Blue Sky, marketing and selling to associations, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies. When Jocelyn isn’t working, she enjoys being outside – whether hiking or heading to the beach. She’s also an avid traveler, has been to six of the seven continents, and is always planning her next trip (or two!).

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