At a Glance
These days every organization is thirsty for a steady supply of nutritious data to help it grow and prosper. Studies show that companies using data analytics to make decisions see dramatic benefits including:
- Improved performance
- Faster decision-making
- Increased productivity
In this three-part series, we’ll dive into:
- Collecting data: What and how much data is important?
- Storing data: Is it secure? Is it easily accessible to those who need it?
- Using data: How can sharing data help grow your organization?
managing the reservoir: protecting & storing data
Now that you’ve decided what data you want to collect, let’s consider how best to store your data so that it’s accessible, useful, and of course, secure. Most of the information we work with is stored in database files. One thing that we’ve discovered in helping our clients manage their members and/or donors is that a system of record is critical.
Drawing from the same pool
A single system of record means that there is one database file, often supported by a customer or member management system, from which everyone in the organization draws information. Maintaining a single record ensures that when the finance department sends invoices, they’re using the same contact information that membership has been working so hard to keep up to date. It means that when a customer updates her email address, the marketing department uses that new email when the next electronic newsletter goes out.
Here are some features to consider when evaluating your system of record:
- Is it cloud-based or housed on the membership director’s hard drive? If it’s cloud-based, multiple staff members can access it simultaneously from a variety of onsite and offsite locations. It’s impervious to spilled coffee, computer theft, and often power outages as well.
- Is it updated in real time or in weekly batches? If it’s updated in real time, the name change that a newlywed made to her membership profile through your web portal at 9 a.m. is accurately reflected when member invoices go out at 9:05 a.m.
- If your database is updating at set intervals, your staff may be using inaccurate information for hours, days, or even longer.
Securing access to the reservoir
Of course you trust and value your staff. That’s why you’ll want to protect them and help them protect themselves against security breaches. Here are three areas to consider when improving security around your data:
Need to Know
Give staff access to the information they need to work safely and efficiently. Only your finance team needs access to payment data, only your membership staff should be able to update membership status, and only your foundation staff should be able to see how much a donor gave to the annual campaign.
Secure the Hardware
Now that email, file servers, and cloud databases can be accessed from electronic notebooks, tablets, and mobile phones as well as computers, keeping such devices locked and secure should be top of mind. Educate your staff by developing security policies based on industry best practices, update them as technology changes, and remind staff regularly of the importance of security through internal communication channels.
Login information, particularly passwords, can be a painful topic not only in our business lives, but in our personal lives as well. Sit down with your IT team or other data security professionals to better understand best practices for login protocols. You’ll want to set standards for things like how frequently passwords should be changed, and what to do when an employee with high-level access leaves the organization.