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Tech Series: Connecting the Dots Between Your Data Sources

Apr 21, 2022
Connecting the Dots Between Your Data Sources

Did you ever stop to think about how much data organizations compile on customers?

If you shop with a frequent shopper card or enter your phone number or email for a purchase, businesses use that information to track what you buy and customize your future shopping experience by sending coupons or promotions relevant to you. Their goal is to provide a more personalized experience and create customer loyalty—and this is accomplished with data.

Data can be a powerful tool for successful organizations, yet many of our organizations still struggle with making sense of it.

We all have different pieces of data: in different systems, in different departments and under the purview of different staff members. It’s no surprise that assembling these disconnected data points is a painstaking and time-consuming process.

Pulling data quickly, easily and accurately shouldn’t be this hard, right? Data is, after all, here to help us be more efficient and grow.

A Dashboard Solution

After spending years sinking time into pulling data, INCPAS decided it was time to look for a better solution that would harness our data into one integrated dashboard for staff.

We chose a vendor to help prepare, connect and validate the information across our databases. When this process is finished, we know it will make life easier for all of us and—even better—finally give us a clearer understanding of our membership at any given point in time.

If you embark on your own data analytics project, make sure you consider all of the data and potential data sources within your organization. Think about the data in spreadsheets, as well as what you have in any other software or systems. The more data you have, the more robust your data analytics can be, which will give you stronger insights into trends within your organization. 

Getting Started

If you’ve never worked on a data analytics project before, it’s a little overwhelming but the results are worth it. Reports are more useful, easy to prepare and visually pleasing for whomever you need to present them to—whether it’s for internal use, an organization, Board of Directors or other stakeholders. 

Start by gathering data and connecting the data points. Luckily, there are a number of data analytics tools that make this process easier such as Microsoft Power BI and Tableau. They serve as data aggregators that can collect data in real time when available from various sources. Even if the data is just a spreadsheet on someone’s computer, all data sources can potentially be added to these tools. 

They also give the ability to connect the previously “siloed” data that was kept in different formats in different departments by different people, allowing for a more comprehensive analysis of customers plus different products and services offered by an organization.


For INCPAS, some of the benefits we anticipate because of this project are:
  • Easier-to-compile reports. Currently, much of the reporting we prepare for our Board of Directors requires multiple data queries from multiple data sources and then we have to combine the data in Excel to prepare the final report. The new system will be much easier and quicker to pull the reports we need.
  • Improvements in our marketing capabilities. As we look at different data points, we will see trends from various member groups which can help us refine our marketing to better target specific groups for customized news and events instead of sending messages to all members. In turn, we avoid information overload.
  • Targeted continuing education course offerings. We will use the data to better track which courses members take. By connecting different data points, like most frequently read news topics or discussions in the Open Forum, we can pinpoint trends that may indicate we need to offer new training.
  • Better member retention. By compiling data, we will watch for membership renewal trends and focus on at-risk groups. Whether it is younger or more experienced members, members in corporate finance or another group, we will be able to focus our efforts and look for solutions to better retain them.
  • Greater understanding of member engagement. We will be able to look at different data points to see how members engage with us, whether they take courses, attend events, participate in the Open Forum or read our daily 3@3 newsletter. Having a better understanding of how members engage will help us make sure we are maximizing the value of membership and allocating resources appropriately to reach the most members in the most effective ways.

This process will take time, but the lasting benefits will be well worth the investment. By harnessing the power of your data, you will ultimately be better equipped to understand what is happening in your business environment (both in real time and over time) and more effectively determine where to focus your resources to best serve your customers’ most immediate needs.

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About the Author
Jenny Norris, CPA, CGMA, CAE, is the INCPAS Vice President – Finance.