There is a lot of emphasis in the media these days about real-time data analytics.  New technologies are being clock and chart graphicintroduced every day to cope with larger amounts of data in shorter amounts of time.  Commercial brands and retailers have increased the effectiveness of their marketing by analyzing real-time social media and location data.  In finance, traders and hedge fund managers use real-time data for anticipating market fluctuations.  And while there is little doubt this is the future of modern commercial business, the value proposition for a typical association is not as clear.

Here two factors to consider in deciding if a real-time analytics solution is right for your association.

  1. Speed of Change– The purpose of business analytics is to leverage data to make better business decisions and improve outcomes.  Practically, this means analyzing changes in data over a period of time.  How fast does the information you care about change?  For an association analyzing the collection of membership dues, conference registrations, or member segmentation and profiling the answer is not very fast.  Since the data will not change significantly in any given minute or hour, there is little additional value compared to the nightly refresh schedule that most traditional datamart solutions currently use.
  2. Technology Challenges – Most associations use a type of Association Management System (AMS) to run their business. Whether using a popular commercial product or a custom developed system, an AMS typically has a large, often complex transactional database architecture.   Transaction-oriented systems are designed to capture changes as they happen.   The architecture of an analytics system is designed to show aggregate data and change over time.  For most associations it is not be practical (or necessary) to develop an ETL process (extract, transform and load) that transfers every transaction to the analytics system in real time, and it could impact the performance of the production transaction system.

For those associations with unique circumstances that support or demand the use of real-time analytics, we applaud and fully support your effort.

For the rest who currently use or plan to implement a more traditional data mart solution, be assured that a nightly refresh is typically sufficient for most purposes.

We’d love to hear from your association to discuss which is best for your specific situation.