A wealth of data … but is it all real?

swiming in dataSeven years after the ASAE Foundation first published Seven Measures of Success it has become a whole lot easier to be a “data-driven” association.   In 2006, the cost, systems and infrastructure needed to do what the remarkable 9 associations did with data was a major challenge.  Less than a decade later, even the smallest association is probably collecting and tracking far more data just by executing their day-to-day operations than they will ever fully leverage.

But along with the increased ease of access and the volume of data now readily available, there has been a dramatic increase in the vulnerability to the illusion of data. One analyst of the 47th annual release of the Higher Education Research Foundation’s American Freshman Study attributes the variance between how students perceive themselves and objective measures of things like academic performance and study habits to data generated by things like Twitter and Facebook that paint a picture that isn’t supported by reality.

And unfortunately, there is another trend readily apparent in all this: the seemingly irresistible urge to add heat to any discussion by using provocative and extreme language.

So maybe the real change since Seven Measures is that, in a world awash in data, the only way to get anyone to pay attention to any of it is through provocative hyperbole.  If that is the case, it is a tragedy.

Read more in my last Association TRENDS commentary here.

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About Mark J. Golden, FASAE, CAE
Mark J. Golden, FASAE, CAE, is Executive Director of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) in Alexandria, Virginia. Prior CEO roles include a nearly fourteen-year tenure as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), Vienna, Virginia. Before joining NCRA staff , he spent eight years with the Personal Communications Industry Association (PCIA), Washington, D.C. He also spent 12 years with the Association of Telemessaging Services International (ATSI), Alexandria, Virginia Long active in the association community, Mr. Golden is a past Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Center for Association Leadership, a past Vice Chairman of the ASAE Board of Directors, past Chair of the Center for Association Leadership’s Research Committee, and past member of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce's Association Committee of 100. He is the 2011 recipient of the American Society of Association Executive's Key Award, the highest honor ASAE bestows, to "honor the association CEO who demonstrates exceptional qualities of leadership in his or her own association, and displays a deep commitment to voluntary membership organizations as a whole.”

One Response to A wealth of data … but is it all real?

  1. guycuthbert says:

    You make a great point Mark; the “Big Data” hype has a tangible, negative impact on the credibility of practical and pragmatic data-driven activities. There is a significant risk in being baffled, battered and bemused by “Big Data”, when great data-driven organisations take simple, step-wise actions based on the data that they already have, can manage and are able to analyse credibly and quickly.

    In many cases this is a relatively small amount of solid, good-quality data which can be explored using traditional spreadsheet tools or (better) with off-the-shelf visual data discovery tools; encouraging *active* exploration and analysis over *passive* reporting. I like to describe this as “Data Animation”, the action of bringing data to life in order to address the myriad of “known unknown” problems, rather than focusing exclusively on the “known knowns” of regular reporting.

    From a quick look on Amazon it seems that “Seven Measures of Success” would be a worthwhile read – I will add it to my wish list.

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