The Evolution of Association Reporting: Business Intelligence, Predictive Analytics and Power BI

Do you remember the old days at associations? Back when a static spreadsheet was “good enough” for your reporting needs? The Executive Director would ask you for a report on annual meeting attendance. And even though it was late on a Friday afternoon, you knew that you could whip that up yourself in no time and still beat your friends to happy hour.

But, then times changed.

Long spreadsheets with rows and rows of data on it started to mean less and less. Since your spreadsheet was not connected to a live data source, the information quickly became stale. The integrity of the report suffered from lack of an audit trail. And, while it did contain information, your spreadsheet was missing a critical component: intelligence.

You, like many others at your association, started to doubt the usefulness of the old reliable spreadsheet. After all, was it really telling your CEO anything meaningful? Could it offer insight into which marketing tactics were working? Could it anticipate how your attendees might respond to a new track? Could it identify any patterns in meeting attendance? No, it could not.

Association reporting needs evolved. Now, the questions you need to answer look more like this:

  • Do certain geographic regions have an affinity for attending our events? If so, what tracks do they gravitate towards?
  • Which digital marketing channels do exhibitor leads have a tendency to engage in?
  • Do repeat attendees have a fondness for promoting your events on social media?
  • What’s the likelihood that Attendee X will register again for next year’s meeting?
  • Which sponsors are likely to be your most profitable given their past behaviors and interest?

Simply displaying alphanumeric characters in a bunch of cells won’t answer these questions. This is really about telling the story behind the data.

You are probably now asking yourself: How am I going to be able to tell this story and still make it in time for happy hour?

The answer is with a solid business intelligence (BI) reporting tool. The best BI reporting tools will be:

  • Accessible—is there a portal where you can upload the reports that you created and share them with anyone in your association?
  • Scalable—can your tool easily transform, refresh, and merge data from multiple data sources?
  • Visual—can you present your data visually through interactive maps, charts, and maps?
  • Mobile—can your CEO access the reports from their tablet or mobile phone?
  • Predictive—does your tool have built-in predictive forecasting models to automatically detect seasonality in the data to provide forecast results?

Analytic tools like Power BI for Office 365 are what your association needs for self service business intelligence. No longer will you have to hunt down the “data guy” at your association to download that report for you. Power BI is a business intelligence & analytics solution that combines the familiarity of Excel with the power of the cloud. You’ll analyze your data in Excel and then share and collaborate with your team in Office 365.

Contact us today to discuss how your association can extract useful insights from big data in an accessible, do-it-yourself model.

Power BI, O365Lee Raesly