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What makes managing and leveraging data such a complicated undertaking for so many organizations?

All too commonly, the integration of various systems and vendors leads to vendor lock-in and a lack of a unified view of data. Data is coming from too many places in too many different formats, and it’s limiting your ability to identify trends and patterns.

To address these challenges, associations can turn to a Common Data Platform (CDP) as a solution. A CDP acts as a separate data repository that brings all the association's data together into a unified and vendor-neutral database, reducing vendor lock-in and providing a central "source of truth" for data. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of a CDP, considerations for implementation, and the various ways AI applications can be utilized with a CDP to improve internal operations and drive efficiency gains for associations.

What is vendor lock-in and how can a CDP prevent it?

Vendor lock-in is a common issue faced by associations when their data and processes are built around a specific vendor's database format. This is further exacerbated by the complexity of point-to-point integrations between multiple systems and often limited access to the data itself via narrow APIs.

Let’s look at what that might look like in the real world.

Imagine an association that has been using a CRM system for several years to manage its member data, communication, and engagement. Over time, the association has accumulated a significant amount of valuable member information within the CRM. However, the CRM system they are using has limited functionality and lacks integration capabilities with other essential systems and tools.

Here are a few specific limitations that association may face:

  • Limited Integration: The CRM system may not have the capability to integrate with other important systems that the association relies on, such as the association's website, event management software, or email marketing platform. This lack of integration can result in manual data entry, data duplication, and inefficient processes.
  • Lack of Customization: The CRM system may not offer sufficient customization options to tailor the system to the association's unique requirements. This can limit the association's ability to track and manage specific member attributes, create custom reports and dashboards, or automate workflows according to their specific business processes.
  • Limited Reporting and Analytics: The CRM system may have limited reporting and analytics capabilities, making it difficult for the association to gain actionable insights from their member data. This can hinder the association's ability to measure member engagement, identify trends, and make data-informed decisions to drive growth and improve member satisfaction.
  • Vendor Dependency: If the association becomes heavily reliant on a single CRM system, they may face challenges if the vendor discontinues support or fails to keep up with technological advancements. This can lead to outdated software, security vulnerabilities, and a lack of access to new features and functionalities that could benefit the association.

A CDP addresses this problem by eliminating the need for point-to-point integrations and providing a unified and vendor-neutral database the association truly owns. With a CDP, associations can easily replace any individual system without disrupting their data management infrastructure. Additionally, a CDP serves as a central "source of truth" for data, allowing associations to have a comprehensive and accurate view of their data.

Related: Demystifying APIs: A Non-Technical Guide for Association Leaders to Select Robust Software Solutions Learn More >

What are the benefits of a Unified Data View?

By integrating data from various systems such as CRM, LMS, email systems, and online communities, a CDP provides associations with a broader and more complete picture of their members and contacts.

Better Decision Making:

This is crucial for making effective decisions and implementing targeted marketing efforts. A unified data view enables associations to have a deeper understanding of their members' needs, preferences, and behaviors, leading to improved member engagement and satisfaction.

Seamless Integration and Adaptability:

A CDP allows for the seamless integration of various systems, including AMS, LMS, and other systems, into a single platform. This adaptability empowers associations to change providers without disrupting their data management infrastructure. It is essential to use a neutral, preferably open-source CDP architecture owned and controlled by the association. This ensures flexibility and avoids the pitfalls of vendor lock-in.

Data Ownership and Control:

Implementing a CDP enables associations to maintain control over their data, even when switching between different vendors. Data ownership is crucial for making data-driven decisions and driving growth based on accurate and accessible data. A CDP ensures that associations have control over their data structure and can leverage it effectively.

What should you consider when choosing a CDP?

When considering different options for a CDP, associations must ask several key questions.

The first consideration is whether to opt for a proprietary or open-source CDP solution. Open-source solutions offer advantages in terms of ownership, community support, and cost-effectiveness. Proprietary solutions, on the other hand, provide a more streamlined experience with one company to handle the entire stack.

Associations should also consider whether they need an association-specific or general-purpose CDP, as well as the level of support, hosting options, and pre-built integrations provided by the CDP solution.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Association Management Software Learn More >

How can you leverage AI and a CDP to improve internal operations?

Once a CDP is in place, associations can maximize its potential by incorporating AI applications into their operations. AI can utilize the unified data from the CDP to power various applications.

AI can accurately forecast member retention and renewals by analyzing data from multiple systems and identifying patterns and reasons behind members' decisions. This information allows associations to proactively address potential issues and take actions to increase member retention.

Leverage AI to enhance event planning and execution. By analyzing historical data, economic circumstances, and other relevant factors, AI can predict the impact of event locations on registration numbers. This insight helps associations make informed decisions and allocate resources effectively. AI can continuously forecast registration numbers and adjust marketing efforts accordingly, maximizing the success of association events.

Another AI application is the use of AI-based speaker selection systems. By reviewing and ranking conference speaker submissions, AI reduces bias and ensures a diverse and engaging lineup of speakers. AI can streamline the entire process of building marketing campaigns for events, from copywriting to image generation and landing page design. This frees up association staff to focus on other tasks and ensures a more efficient marketing process.

AI can enhance member service by analyzing member behavior, preferences, and interactions. With this data, AI can provide personalized recommendations and tailor the member experience. AI-powered chatbots can handle routine inquiries and support tasks, providing 24/7 support to members and freeing up association staff to focus on more complex issues. Additionally, AI can identify potential connections between members, enhancing networking opportunities and fostering a more connected community.

Pair AI with a Common Data Platform to improve internal operations.

Implementing a Common Data Platform and integrating AI applications into association management processes can lead to significant improvements in internal operations and member services. A CDP reduces vendor lock-in and provides a unified view of data, empowering associations to make data-driven decisions and drive growth based on accurate and accessible data. AI applications, when utilized with a CDP, streamline processes, increase efficiency, and enhance member engagement. As technology continues to advance, associations must adapt and leverage the power of AI to remain competitive and provide unparalleled service to their members. A CDP can serve as a crucial building block to achieve these goals.

To learn more about how associations can unlock the power of AI, download our book "Ascend: Unlocking the Power of AI for Associations." This comprehensive guide dives deeper into CDP implementation and various AI applications tailored specifically for associations. Harness the power of AI and revolutionize your association's operations today.

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Thomas Altman
Post by Thomas Altman
August 8, 2023
Thomas Altman is a data scientist, association expert and entrepreneur. His first introduction to the world of associations was a decade ago when he took a job implementing AMS solutions right out of graduate school. With a degree in applied statistics and machine learning, he immediately saw a gap in what associations were doing with data and what was possible. He saw data either go unused or used to create flashy dashboards that had no impact on helping associations deliver on their missions. Thomas quickly realized that analytics that don't lead to measurable action are, at best, entertainment and, at worst, a waste of resources. He's dedicated his career to changing that and helping associations create data-driven action plans so they can know what needs to be done and know that it's working.