What questions should we ask of our technology when embarking on a data project?

In the non-profit or trade union sector, digital transformation projects can often be complex. The work being done by these organisations is extremely important to their members and requires a unique set of digital tools to accomplish. With regional geography, event registrations, balloting and subscriptions to manage, there are a multitude of areas that demand attention.

In a recent article, we discussed three organisational elements that must be addressed if we are to maximise the results of a CRM implementation project. But there are also a number of more technical aspect to consider when thinking about the data within these systems. An organisation should ask the following questions of itself and its technology partner while adopting an open-minded and genuinely inquisitive approach. This will often provide answers and suggest strategies that less methodical organisations might easily miss.

Which technologies are available?

Software development is advancing at an unprecedented pace today as users demand more intuitive and connected solutions. Depending upon their mindset, membership organisations can either view this as an issue that they’re reluctantly forced to keep in step with or as an unmissable opportunity to differentiate their services.

It’s certainly true that technology shelf-lives are shorter than ever. But each system can achieve so much today, that it’s important to view this as an essential cost of business. Understanding what technology is available to solve issues, improve service and increase efficiency is critical. In addition, it’s helpful to understand where this technology is in its development timeline and what new developments are on the horizon.

Making a technology selection that provides an optimal solution today but that can also adapt to new demands and discoveries going forward is equally important.

What is the condition of our data?

The purpose of a digital transformation is to turn data into a competitive advantage. Being able to create a single point of entry for members, simplify their user journeys and make more informed strategic and tactical decisions based upon their engagement is a winning strategy. But to realise this, the data within our systems needs to be up to date, accurate and properly managed.

Understanding how much attention our data requires prior to the digital transformation taking place is vital. For example, are there typographical errors that could cause email updates to fail, or do we have duplicate entries that will confuse our automated processes?

Thoroughly reviewing and intelligently migrating our data provides any digital transformation with the best chance for success. It also provides an output in the form of KPIs that can drive continuous improvement programmes and ensure service levels remain optimal.

Are our current data processes still the best solution?

Understanding the reasons for beginning a technology project and having a shared view of its scope and objectives will put an entire organisation on the same page. Achieving this level of buy-in requires organisational maturity and an effective internal communication mechanism. Selecting the right internal champions for each department and development stage is also important because these projects need to involve every process within the organisation.

The data we collect and use to drive our business is at the heart of our operation. And implementing a new CRM system represents a significant improvement in the tools we have to manage this data. The processes that worked in the past may no longer be the best way to achieve a task because brand new systems often provide their largest advantage when used in brand new ways. There needs to be a sympathetic transformation in our approach, attitude and work practices to extract the most from our investment.

Who can help us?

It’s certainly possible to either choose a technology-only provider or even to deliver these projects completely in-house. But even if that’s the case, working with an experienced membership solutions partner with change management know-how to investigate the three areas above is likely to prove extremely worthwhile.

These partners will bring an objective viewpoint combined with broad sector expertise to identify technical solutions that are virtually invisible to teams entrenched in a certain way of working. They will also give access to experience that helps sidestep or overcome common hurdles to save time and money by avoiding dead ends. Look for a partner with a lengthy track record in your sector and if possible, speak with their previous clients to learn how much value they were able to bring to each project.

Data transformation may be complex but asking these questions and finding somebody trustworthy to help answer them gives any organisation the best possible chance of success.