How to Convince the Board to Invest in Data & Analytics

 

Association Leaders must show how their Data & Analytics programs both contribute to and are necessary for accomplishing your organization’s mission

Data and analytics (D&A) have been top of association leaders agenda for several years. However, to reach levels of maturity in D&A that have potential to bring about the biggest advantages, every area of an organization should be developing some proficiency in data and analytics. This means that D&A should be on every CEO and Executive Director’s agenda, and in some cases even a topic for the volunteer board. D&A leaders should be ready for that.

Remember that almost everything presented to the board is framed as “vital” or “critical”

Gartner analysts Lydia Clougherty Jones and Frank Buytendijk say it’s important to remember that almost everything presented to the board is framed as “vital” or “critical” and so it can often be a challenging, skeptical environment in which many initiatives compete for attention and funding.

Here are some tips for working with your Board to ensure their understanding of the criticality of Data & Analytics in your association:

Use business language while being prepared to give insight into technical details.

It’s common to try to explain everything you are passionate about, but at board meetings, get to the point and focus on business benefits. It’s crucial to link D&A to the high-level organizational strategy as defined by the board.

Show you’ve done your homework by including additional detail as part of an appendix

For example, a D&A leader could say the following about a strategic growth target: “We have an aggressive growth target of 20%. At least 60% of that growth opportunity is in upselling or cross-selling within our existing customer base. This means we need to have a better understanding of who our customers are and what they need. This is the core of the 360-degree customer data and analytics program.”

However, at the same time, show you’ve done your homework by including additional detail as part of an appendix. Not every executive will go through it, but providing the information shows preparedness and respect for the audience.

Be fact-based and brief but tell a story.

Make sure that when you cut down your presentation to make it succinct, you don’t lose the engaging part. Storytelling is an important part of catching the interest of the board. One way is to divide the story into four sections. Here’s an example explaining the need for master data management (MDM).

  • Step 1 — Descriptive: “27% of our member records contain errors, leading to low engagement in our renewal campaigns.”
  • Step 2 — Diagnostic: “The cause is not having a consistent way to capture and identify information about our members and customers. We have different standards in 5 different systems including our AMS, LMS, Event Management and Marketing Automation systems.”
  • Step 3 — Predictive: “Every quarter we continue to do this; it costs $100,000 in working capital in the form of wasted staff time and decreased member engagment.”
  • Step 4 — Prescriptive: “We should implement a technology called Master Data Management (MDM) that helps us fix this and manage it moving forward.”

Be clear about what you want, but also provide multiple scenarios of how to get there.

Issues that reach the board level are often complex and do not have simple yes or no answers. Providing multiple scenarios of how a D&A initiative can work will provide a platform for discussion and help secure executive buy-in.

Explain which scenario you prefer and why, but leave room for discussion

It’s crucial to be very clear about what you hope to achieve with the board meeting, and if possible, to discuss this objective in advance with the board member who is sponsoring your meeting. Then present different scenarios about how to reach your objective. Explain which scenario you prefer and why but leave room for discussion.

Be specific about what D&A means to your organization, while at the same time presenting an outside-in perspective (using service design and customer journey methods)

It’s great to refer to larger trends in the market and your industry and show examples of what other organizations are doing. It can provide clarity, inspiration and even a sense of urgency within the board. It’s important, however, to ensure external examples are always translated to be relevant to your own organization.

Point out timely, unique challenges of D&A

Here are a few hot D&A topics likely to capture the board’s attention.

  • The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): The deadline of May 25, 2018 looms large with potentially very severe penalties for non-compliance. Moreover, GDPR privacy requirements and the data management momentum they have created are an opportunity to drive business value.
  • Infonomics: Modern businesses understand the importance of treating information as an asset. Introduce infonomics as an emerging discipline that can drive competitive advantage, open new markets and deliver new revenue.
  • Ethics: The board act as the moral compass of an organization. Digital transformation raises the question of digital ethics, and in today’s world an organization’s ethical reputation is tightly related to the bottom line. They should be involved in how data is collected and used, and they should be leveraging the output to enhance the organization’s mission.