How to identify and break down data silos at your association

Data silos can pose a major risk to any organization. So, why do so many associations still have siloed data?  
Discover how to identify data silos and fix your siloed data. Read our blog for helpful strategies to organize your member data today!

What are data silos? 

Data silos are collections of data controlled by one department and isolated from the rest of an organization. Much like a grain silo is protected from the elements on a farm, siloed data is stored in a standalone system and incompatible with other data sets. 
Data silos make it hard for your staff across departments to easily access and use your records. 

How are data silos created?

Organizations often implement new technology to achieve specific tasks. Over time, the organizations find themselves with multiple systems, some of which become outdated. 

Meanwhile, employees must get their jobs done. And when systems and processes make that difficult, they find workarounds through non-authorized systems like spreadsheets, other databases, and even paper-based systems. These rogue systems create isolated pockets of data that’s often duplicated in more than one system, resulting in data silos.

5 ways data silos hurt your association

The truth is data silos can hurt your association more than you might think. Consider these five harmful effects of data silos: 

1. Outdated information

Data that’s in multiple systems and spreadsheets can get outdated in a hurry. It’s nearly impossible to remember to update member data that’s hanging out in spreadsheets and various systems every time something changes.

You might even forget about a lonely spreadsheet that no one’s updated in several months. The next thing you know, you aren’t sure how to find the most recent information.

2. Reporting breakdown

As your association evolves, so does your need for fast, accurate reports on things like member acquisition and retention. Without member data in a single system, pulling together reports requires a time-consuming process of cobbling together numbers and other data from disparate systems.

Even with this process, you don’t know for sure if you’ve captured all of the latest data.

3. Inconsistent decision-making

With reports you can’t trust, you don’t have accurate insights into the health of your organization. You can’t make precise and informed decisions. And, if each team across your organization is housing data in a different place, they each could be making decisions based on different information than the other teams.

4. Disjointed member experience

When your member data is outdated and different departments in your organization are working with different sets of data, what happens? Your member experience suffers.

Members are more likely to receive incorrect communications. They might have to contact your team multiple times to update their information. Eventually, you might lose them as members.

5. Security issues

It’s hard to keep your member data secure when it’s scattered across your organization in different systems. How can you keep your member data secure and backed up, not to mention comply with data regulations, when you can’t easily find or control access to it? 

5 steps to break down data silos in your association

When you think of all the harm data silos can cause, you might ask, “why are we still doing things this way?” The good news is that you don’t have to. 

Here are five steps to break down data silos in your organization

1. Evaluate your systems

Review each system and tool your association is using to collect and store data. For each one, consider if it’s serving a unique purpose or if you can easily consolidate it with another system or tool.

2. Clean and organize your member data

Take time to tidy up your member data. This simple activity can have several benefits, including spending less time finding the data you need, having more accurate reports, and spending less time moving data around.

3. Move to a modern AMS

Move to an association management software (AMS) that allows you to collect and manage member data in one central location. Moving to a modern AMS system will allow you to easily keep member data updated and secure as well as give you a complete view of your member data through reports and dashboards.

4. Integrate your technology systems

Even after moving to a new AMS system, you might still have other systems for specific purposes. Be sure to integrate other technology systems with your AMS so your entire organization can look to your AMS for the most accurate, updated information.

5. Remove duplicated data

Practice data hygiene to routinely audit your data to look for inconsistencies, confirm your software is up to date, and determine which metrics are most useful for your association. Consider auditing your data every three to six months to ensure you don’t miss duplicated records. Running audits will show that your data is an organizational priority. 

Looking for another way to organize your member data? Nimble AMS uses Salesforce Person Accounts to include both individual and organizational members within a contact record. With the Person Accounts model your association can have a connected membership experience. Learn more.

Learn more about data silos and how to protect your data

If left unaddressed, data silos can pose a major threat to the structural integrity of your organization. Begin identifying and dismantling data silos today! Learn more tips to elevate your organization’s data strategy.

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