Author Archive for Barbara Woodward

Data-Driven Decision Making

One of the most important things association leaders can do, in the next decade, is create a culture that embraces the analytical mindset. There are more decisions to be made and less time to make them. By understanding the stories in our data, we can make decisions to shape the future with confidence.

The analytical mindset is the ability to ask questions, communicate about data, and understand the context. This includes the business environment of processes, culture, tactics, and strategies. Recognizing that data is a business asset and not the sole domain of IT is the first step and creating a shared appreciation for the power to make good decisions faster with your team is the next.

Become a role model for effective data-guided decision making in your organization, the art and science of storytelling with data, and the tools associations can use today to create powerful visualizations for communicating internally with staff and leadership, as well as externally with members and prospects.

How to Get Started

A great place to start is to benchmark your organization, get recommendations, compare to peer groups, and share with your team. This Quick Online Assessment will allow you to do all of these things.

What is the Analytical Mindset?

The Analytic Mindset is a way of thinking that is revolutionizing the way associations scrutinize their data. Volume of data is one thing, but how you extract value from that data is proving to be much more significant. It drives an organization’s ability to illuminate the context in which their data is acquired, which in turn can optimize the processes, strategies, and tactics.

What to Measure for Maximum Impact

If you miss our keynote at GSAE Tech, we’d be happy to provide tips and resources to keep you moving forward. Nineteen years of working with your association peers has provided valuable perspective and benchmarking that we’d be happy to chat with you.

By applying the Analytic Mindset, you’ll  close the gap between informational volume and finding its actual value. It’s the key to making smart decisions that are not just data-driven, but driven by the most informed perspective on the right data. Examples of how ASAE leveraged data for measurable results are available here.

Lastly, keep these imperatives in mind:

• Assumptions should be questioned
• A picture is worth 1,000 words (or numbers)
• Anything (and we mean ANYTHING) is measurable
• Data should be accessible and understandable
• Insights should be actionable
• Actions should be monitored

 

Matt Lesnak, VP of Product Development & Technology
Association Analytics

 

 

How Associations Are Successfully Using Artificial Intelligence

With AI no longer science fiction, associations are using advanced technologies to convert mountains of data into actionable insights.

At the recent EMERGENT event, hosted by Association Trends, we had the opportunity to jointly present case studies with ASAE’s Senior Director of Business Analytics, Christin Berry.

These success stories include how ASAE has:

Combined artificial intelligence and text analytics to enhance customer engagement, understand evolving trends, and improve product offerings

DOUBLED online engagement with unique open and the click-to-open rates using AI to personalize newsletters

Reduced the need for surveys, identified what’s trending, and measured through Community Exploration

Leveraged Expertise Search and Matching to better identify experts and bring people with similar interests together

I’m Matt Lesnak, VP of Product Development & Technology at Association Analytics and I hope to demystify these emerging technologies to jumpstart your endeavors in association innovation.

Text and Other Analytics

Associations turn to analytics and visual discovery for answers to common questions including:

  • How many members to we have for each member type?
  • How many weeks are people registering in advance of the annual meeting?
  • How much are sales this year for the top products?

Questions about text content can be very different, and less specific.  For example:

  • What is it about?
  • What are the key terms?
  • How can I categorize the content?
  • Who and where is it about?
  • How is it like other content?
  • How is the writer feeling?

It is widely estimated that 70% of analytics effort is spent on data wrangling.

This high proportion is no different for text analytics but can be well worth the effort. Text analytics involves unique challenges including:

  • Term ambiguity: Bank of a river vs. a bank with money vs. an airplane movement
  • Equivalent terms: Eat vs. ate, run vs. running
  • High volume: Rapidly growing social data
  • Different structure: Doesn’t really have rows, columns, and measure
  • Significant data wrangling: Must be transformed into usable format

Like the ever-growing data from association source systems that might flow to data warehouse, text content of interest might include community discussions, articles or other publications/books, session/speaker proposals, journal submissions, and voice calls or messages.

Possible uses include enhancing your content strategy, providing customized resources, extracting trending topics for CEOs, and identifying region-specific challenges.

Learn More

 

Personalized Newsletter

ASAE is working with rasa.io to automatically identify topics of newsletter content as part of a pilot that significantly improved user engagement.  ASAE and rasa.io first tracked newsletters interactions over time to understand individual preferences and trending topics.  Individuals then received personalized newsletters based on demonstrated preferences.

The effort had been very successful, as unique open and the click-to-open rates have more than doubled for the personalized newsletters.

Underlying technology includes Google, IBM Watson, and Amazon Web Services; combined with other machine learning tools developed by rasa.io.


Community Exploration

ASAE leverages a near-real-time integration with over 10 million community data points combined with enterprise data warehouse to analyze over 50,000 pieces of discussion content and over 50,000 site searches.  The integration is offered as part of the Association Analytics Acumen product through a partnership with Higher Logic.

Information extracted includes named entities, key phrases, term relevancy, and sentiment analysis.  This capability provides several impactful benefits.

Quick wins:

  • Visualize search terms
  • What’s trending
  • Staff and volunteer use
  • Reduce need for surveys

Longer-term opportunities:

  • Aboutness of posts as content strategy
  • Identifying key expertise areas
  • Connecting like-minded individuals

Underlying technology includes AWS Comprehend, Python, and Hadoop with Mahout.

Learn More


Expertise Search and Matching

Another application of text analytics that we’ve implemented involves enabling associations to better identify experts and bring together people with similar interests.  In addition to structured data from multiple sources, text from content including meeting abstracts and paper manuscripts provides insights into potential individual interests and expertise.

This incorporates data extracted from content using approaches including content similarity, term relevancy, validation of selected tags, and identifying potential collaborators.

Underlying technology includes Python and Hadoop with Mahout.


Approaches and Technology

We’re written extensively about the importance of transforming data into a format optimized for analytics, such as a dimensional data model implemented as a date warehouse.

Thinking back to the common association questions involving membership, event registration, and product sales; these are based on discrete data such as member type, event, and day.

Text data is structured for analysis using a different approach, but fundamentally similar as each term is a field instead of, for example, a member type table field.

Picture a matrix with each document as a row and each term as a column.

This is referred to as “vector space representation”.  With thousands of commonly used words in the English language, that can be a big matrix.  Fortunately, we have ways to reduce this size and complexity.

First, some basic text preparation:

  • Tokenization – splitting into words and sentences
  • Stop Word Removal – removing words such as “a”, “and”, “the”
  • Stemming – reduction to root word
  • Lemmatization – morphological analysis to reduce words
  • Spelling Correction – like common spell-checkers

Another classic approach is known as “Term Frequency–Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IDF)”.  We use TF-IDF to reduce the data to include the most important terms using the calculated scores.  TF-IDF is different from many other techniques as it considers the entire population of potential content as opposed to isolated individual instances.

It is widely estimated that 70% of analytics effort is spent on data wrangling.  This high proportion is no different for text analytics but can be well worth the effort.

Other key foundational processing:

  • Part-of-Speech Tagging: Noun, verb, adjective
  • Named Entity Recognition: Person, place, organization
  • Structure Parsing: Sentence component relationships
  • Synonym Assignment: Discrete list of synonyms
  • Word Embedding: Words converted to numbers

The use of Word Embedding, also referred to as Word Vectors is particularly interesting.  For example, the word embedding similarity of “question” and “answer” is over 0.93.  This isn’t necessarily intuitive and it is not feasible to manually maintain rules for different term combinations.

A team of researchers at good created a group of models known as Word2vec that is implemented in development languages including Python, Java, and C.

Here are common analysis techniques:

  • Text Classification: Assignment to pre-defined groups, that generally requires a set of classified content
  • Topic Modeling: Derives topics from text content
  • Text Clustering: Separating content into similar groups
  • Sentiment Analysis: Categorizing opinions with measures for positive, negative, and neutral


Finding and Measuring Results

With traditional data queries and interactive visualizations, we generally specify the data we want by selecting values, numeric ranges, or portions of strings.  This is very binary – either the data matches the criteria, or it does not.

We filter and curate text using similarity measures that estimate “distance” between text content.  Examples include point-based Euclidean Distance, Vector-based Cosine Distance, and set-based Jaccard Similarity.

Once we identify desired content, how do we measure overall results?  This is referred as relevance and is made up of measures known as precision and recall.  Precision is the fraction of relevant instances among the retrieved instances, and recall is the fraction of relevant instances that have been retrieved over the total amount of relevant instances.  The balance between these measured is based on a tradeoff between ensuring all content is included and only including content of interest.  This should be driven by the business scenario.

This overall approach to text analytics is like that used for recommendation engines based on collaborative filtering driven by preferences of “similar” users and “similar” products.


APIs to the Rescue

Fortunately, there are web-based Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that we’ve used to help you get started.  Here are online instances from Amazon and IBM for interactive experimenting:

This is a lot of information, but the takeaways are they there are big opportunities for associations to mine their trove of text data and it is easy to get started using web-based APIs to rapidly provide valuable insights.

Learn More

 

Matt Lesnak, VP of Product Development & Technology
Association Analytics

Coolest New Power BI Features Revealed!

Recently the Microsoft Business Applications Summit 2019 highlighted new Power BI features and these are the coolest features to note IMO:

1. New Power BI App Workspace Experience in Preview Power BI App Workspaces were introduced to enable collaboration amongst the data/business analysts within an organization. The new experience introduces numerous improvements to better enable a data-driven culture including:

•   Managing access using security groups, distribution lists, and Office 365 Groups
•   Not automatically creating an Office 365 group
•   API’s for Admins, as well as new tools for Power BI Admins to effectively manage workspaces

2. Printing Reports via Export to PDF
You can now easily print or email copies of reports by exporting all visible pages to PDF.

3. Bookmark Groups
Now you have a way to organize bookmarks into groups for easier navigation.

4. Python Integration in Preview
Now data scientists can use Python in addition to R within Power BI Desktop.

5. New Visual Header
More flexibility and formatting options have been added to the header section of each visual.

6. Tooltips for Table and Matrix Vizs
Report page tooltips are now available for the table and matrix visuals

7. Many to Many Relationships in Preview
You will now be able to join tables using a cardinality of “Many to Many” – prior to this feature, at least one of the columns involved in the relationship had to contain unique values.

And now I’ve saved the best for last!

8. Composite Models in Preview
With this feature, you’ll now be able to seamlessly combine data from one or more DirectQuery sources, and/or combine data from a mix of DirectQuery sources and imported data. For example, you can build a model that combines sales data from an enterprise data warehouse using DirectQuery, with data on sales targets that is in a departmental SQL Server database using DirectQuery, along with some data imported from a spreadsheet.

As you can see there are many new features to digest but it would be well worth your while to follow the links provided.

On a closing note, I’d like to give you a teaser for two new features coming up soon that will have a huge impact on self-service data prep and querying for big data:

  • Dataflows
  • Aggregates

Stay tuned!
Mario Di Giovanni, BASc, MBA, CBIP
Director, Business Analytics

More about Mario

 

Partnership Provides Powerful Member Engagement Analytics

(Washington, DC—August 13, 2018) Association Analytics, the leading data analytics software and services company for associations, and Higher Logic, the industry leader in cloud-based engagement platforms, have announced their formal partnership.

Sharing the goal of innovating associations through technology, this dynamic union originated on May 23, 2018. An unprecedented case study detailing the impact of this new integration was released at the ASAE Annual Conference, featuring the predictive membership engagement and revenue indications ASAE has captured.

Higher Logic’s Director of Partnerships, Bobby Kaighn, explained, “What may surprise association leaders is the potency of analytical trends when the Higher Logic community platform is integrated with Association Analytics’ Acumen data analytics platform. You can see the exact retention rate of members who engage in specific community activities, the relationship between community interactions and attendance at annual meetings, and the ratio of membership revenue to the frequency of online community participation.”

Associations dedicate their sources to storing information on everything from finances to event registrations, and most of these sources are continually upgrading their advanced reporting functions to include visual analytics. Now imagine if an association could lay these advanced data sets, like marketing campaign data (from one source), on top of member engagement statistics (from another source). This is where the synchronized connectivity of this partnership innovates the association industry.

Higher Logic’s data-driven approach helps organizations track and manage meaningful interactions along each stage of the member journey. Its expanded suite of engagement capabilities includes online communities and marketing automation, covering everything from the initial web visit to renewal and ongoing engagement.

Julie Sciullo, CEO of Association Analytics, said, “With Higher Logic as a standard Acumen platform integration, we’ve been able to quickly and easily import community data in real-time to interpret past and current data, bringing trends to light for strategic action plans.  The integration with Higher Logic empowers associations to overlay hundreds of data combinations to gauge performance and predict future outcomes.”

With the partnership between Association Analytics and Higher Logic already innovating associations, today’s announcement is shared in celebration of this ongoing and increasing benefit to the industry. For more, don’t miss the latest case study featuring ASAE’s actionable analytics on retention rates, the relationship between specific interactions and attendance at annual meetings, and the ratio of membership revenue to the frequency of online engagement.

Association Analytics (A2) is an industry leader in data analysis and management products, services, and training. We innovate associations by funneling your databases continuously into one powerful visual analytics dashboard for real-time, instant interpretation and decision-making power. The platform is called Acumen and it’s designed specifically for associations. This hassle-free, hosted analytics platform means you no longer need IT staff to run reports. Acumen is intuitive and easy-to-use with out-of-box visualizations & reports that encourage cross-staff adoption. The flexible design allows you to choose only the modules you need and includes seamless built-in integrations with your AMS, LMS, email, and finance platforms. Modules include Membership Engagement, Events, Community, Finance, Membership, Sales/Orders, Email Marketing/Automation, and the Executive Dashboard feature. It’s time you had a single source of truth with a 360 degree view for better, faster decisions, enhanced member experiences, improved staff efficiency, and increased revenue. Learn more at www.associationanalytics.com

Higher Logic is an industry leader in cloud-based engagement platforms. Our data-driven approach gives organizations an expanded suite of engagement capabilities, including online communities and marketing automation. From the initial web visit to renewal and ongoing engagement, we help you track and manage interactions along each stage of the digital customer experience. Organizations worldwide use Higher Logic to bring people all together, by giving their community a home where they can interact, share ideas, answer questions, and stay connected. Everything we do – the tools and features in our software, our services, partnerships, best practices – drives our ultimate goal of making your organization successful. Visit www.higherlogic.com.

Bringing Association Data to Life, Powerful Visual Analytics Tool Released for Out-of-the-Box Efficiency

(Washington, DC—July 19, 2018) Built on decades of custom development and data analytics consulting, Association Analytics has released Acumen; the most powerful, first-of-its-kind product with best in class visualizations, exclusively designed for associations.
The easy-to-use software enables staff to leverage data for better, more confident decisions impacting financial performance, member experiences, and optimized operations.
Julie Sciullo, CEO of Association Analytics, shared, “Acumen baseline visualizations address the most common association business challenges, so you’re not starting from scratch. Our hassle-free, hosted analytics platform means you don’t need IT to run reports and it’s intuitive which encourages cross-staff adoption.”

This spring, Association Analytics invited community stakeholders to help name the game-changing analytics tool. The name “Acumen” was selected, synonymous with the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions.

“From membership to meetings to engagement, the flexible design allows you to select as many or few modules as you need to start interpreting and acting upon key business areas and resources. The built-in integrations with leading AMS, events, email marketing, and finance platforms deliver easily and quickly available integrated data,” added Matt Lesnak, Vice President of Product Development and Technology.
For more information on how Acumen empowers associations to access, understand, interpret, and act upon data, visit www.a2acumen.com.

 

About Association Analytics

Association Analytics (A2) is an industry leader in data analysis and management products, services, and training. Assembled with the association professional in mind, Association Analytics is exclusively focused on empowering teams to integrate and interpret compliant data to make better, more confident decisions. These decisions enhance member experiences, optimize processes, drive organizational strategies, and increase revenue. A2’s experts provide the Acumen analytics platform, lead data governance, analytics strategies, training, adoption, fractional analysis, data privacy compliance, and engagement workshops. Learn more at http://www.associationanalytics.com

Vice President of Product Development and Technology Announced

(Washington, DC—May 2, 2018) Association Analytics, the leading data analytics company for associations and non-profits, announced the promotion of Matt Lesnak to Vice President of Product Development and Technology. Matt has been instrumental in the two-year development process leading up to a game-changing product to be released this quarter.

He will have the primary responsibility of driving innovations including the extensible data architecture designed specifically for associations, integrations with industry-leading source systems, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment, and advanced analytics solutions involving recommendation engines, text analytics, and additional predictive models.

“This role provides Matt the opportunity to keep Association Analytics customers on the forefront of research and development including voice-enabled technologies, IoT applications, and image recognition. Simply put, associations can count on us to continually integrate leading-edge methods to harness data, display meaningful trends, and equip them to better serve and grow their missions,” said Julie Sciullo, CEO of Association Analytics.

Matt joined the company in 2015 applying diverse industry knowledge of e-commerce, healthcare, retail, software development, manufacturing, financial services, and government as a Senior Analytics Architect. He holds a Master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Electronic Commerce, along with a Master in Public Policy (MPP) degree from George Mason University that provides valuable insight into mission-driven organizations. Matt is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and holds SAS Certified Predictive Modeler Using SAS Enterprise Miner and Cloudera Certified Developer for Apache Hadoop (CCDH) credentials.(Washington, DC—May 2, 2018)   Association Analytics, the leading data analytics company for associations and non-profits, announced the promotion of Matt Lesnak to Vice President of Product Development and Technology. Matt has been instrumental in the two-year development process leading up to a game-changing product to be released this quarter.

Matt joined the company in 2015 applying diverse industry knowledge of e-commerce, healthcare, retail, software development, manufacturing, financial services, and government as a Senior Analytics Architect. He holds a Master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Electronic Commerce, along with a Master in Public Policy (MPP) degree from George Mason University that provides valuable insight into mission-driven organizations.  Matt is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and holds SAS Certified Predictive Modeler Using SAS Enterprise Miner and Cloudera Certified Developer for Apache Hadoop (CCDH) credentials.

About Association Analytics

Association Analytics (A2) is an industry leader in data analysis and management products, services, and training. Assembled with the association professional in mind, Association Analytics is exclusively focused on empowering teams to integrate and interpret compliant data to make better, more confident decisions. These decisions enhance member experiences, optimize processes, drive organizational strategies, and increase revenue. A2’s experts provide the Acumen analytics platform, lead data governance, analytics strategies, training, adoption, fractional analysis, data privacy compliance, and engagement workshops. Learn more at http://www.associationanalytics.com