How to Use Data to Support your Strategic Goals
The start of a new year is a time many organisations revisit their strategic goals to make sure their teams’ initiatives for the year are aligned with those goals. Unfortunately, a common output of this exercise is the realisation that your entire organisation isn’t on the same page and that somehow the goals got lost in translation from the board level down to those executing the tactics.
If this sounds familiar, you have your data to help! Data analytics can be a great unifier for your organisation, helping get staff at every level, from the board down to the implementers, align around your important objectives.
Of course, first, you must get your organisation to evolve and more uniformly embrace data and analytics, which we know can be quite challenging. Some people are resistant to change. They like doing things the way it’s always been done. Another barrier can be internal politics. One group owns the data and another one is driving strategy. Lack of leadership support can hold you back as well. And finally, poor key performance indicator (KPI) alignment across your organisation can stifle success if not everyone understands what needs to be done and why.
It may seem daunting, but there are concrete steps you can take to help gain alignment across your association.
Identify the key metrics you’ll use to measure your goals
Start by reviewing each of your strategic goals and identifying the key metrics you can use to measure progress against those goals. Most likely, you’ll have more than one metric for each goal. And while it’s important for you to track and report on all of them, it isn’t feasible to regularly review them all. We suggest you “check your vitals” instead. This process will help you identify your most important metrics and which combination of them will give you the confidence you need to know you’re on the path toward attaining your goals.
Use data to check your “vitals”
Just like humans have vitals (temperature, blood pressure, heart rate), your organisation does as well. It’s important to check them regularly. If you see something is off, you can dig deeper and run more tests. This allows you to put some direction behind your focus and energy. Use these four steps to find your vitals that will tell you the health of your association and your progress toward your strategic goals.
Step 1: Create a master list of all your metrics. List out everything you measure in one place. Think about all your performance goals across the organisation and jot them down. Examples could include member retention rate, email opens, headcount expenses or meeting sponsorship sales.
Step 2: Place your metrics into broad categories. You only need a handful of categories, generally ones that align and make the most sense with your strategic goals. Examples could include quality, cost, growth, and member experience.
Step 3: Pair down each metric into a broad performance measure. You likely will have many metrics under each category, but you only need a handful here as well. Choose which 3 to 5 tell you how your organisation is performing at a glance. If none of them do, create broader measures that encompass multiple individual metrics. An example might be in the Financial category. If your metrics include membership dues, event revenue and product purchases, roll them all under the broad category of Total Revenue.
Step 4: View your metrics in real-time. After you create your vitals, ensuring they use real-time data is essential. We recommend you create your vitals once and keep that real-time data pumping in so you can use it and take action any time.
Having these vitals allows everyone in the organisation to be pointed in the right direction about what can be done next to tie your tactics back to your strategy and your mission. Check out this infographic to help you visualise how to check your organisation’s vitals.
“Data can’t speak for itself, it’s up to you to give it a voice. Try to speak truthfully.” – Economist Ronald Coase
Clearly Communicate Results
Keeping your vitals front and centre is critical. Review them in all-hands meetings and department meetings. Give people access to them so they get accustomed to reviewing them on their own, too. Reviewing data for data’s sake isn’t going to be impactful. Translating data into insights and actions will help you communicate the progress of your tactics and how they align with your strategy and mission.
Here are some tips to help effectively communicate your results:
Use visuals and dynamic dashboards to show results over time. This can be done with a scorecard or pulse report. A visual representation will help show how your efforts are, or are not, supporting your goals.
Make sure your visualisations include targets. This might be a budget target, or membership retention target. By having targets included with your data visualisations, you’ll always be able to see if you’re on the right track.
Put information into context so people really understand where you are moving as an organisation. Understand how to break down your data and deliver it to the people that need it when they need it. Help them understand if a number is good or bad. Ask your team what the numbers reveal.
Don’t let what the data tells you hold you back. Data shouldn’t scare you, even if it’s telling you something isn’t working. Be honest about the results and you’ll know exactly where you need to adjust to work towards improvement. Data can help you move towards a culture of transparency and data-guided decision making.
Ensure Your Staff Has What They Need
The right tools will help your team report on and track their key performance metrics. Here are some of the common items your staff needs:
Data from their systems all in one place. Having your “vitals” in one place will allow staff to easily identify if something isn’t’ going as expected so they can quickly troubleshoot and adjust as needed. It will also allow them to see all the great progress that is happening!
Access to real-time data so they can turn insights into actions at a moment’s notice. This case study shows how the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology was able to profit over 70k on an event that wasn’t originally looking promising using real-time data.