Written by xScion
on August 16, 2018


This past week I met with the leadership of an association here in the DC area to talk about Data Governance as it related to their upcoming AMS upgrade. Up until now, they viewed Data Governance as something they knew they needed to fix, but weren’t sure where or when to start. As always, they simply kicked the can down the road (sound familiar?).

At the same time, a commitment was made to finally upgrade their AMS. The process of gathering requirements for the AMS upgrade suddenly brought to light many of the Data Governance challenges that have existed for years, but have been masked by expensive and time-consuming workarounds (and maybe a little bit of denial as well). With the AMS upgrade looming and these Data Governance issues now in full view, it was fully apparent that neglecting to fix these issues until after implementing a new AMS, would only create a more complex and expensive problem moving forward, and in many ways would de-value the impact of the new AMS.

If you’re an association, chances are you’re either looking at replacing your AMS, you just recently replaced your AMS, or you’re wishing you could replace your AMS! It’s a pervasive challenge that envelopes every modernization conversation happening at every association across the country, and rightfully so. The AMS is the backbone of every association and with digital modernization in full swing and member experience driving technological transformation, having the right platform and architecture in place is becoming more critical by the day. This presents both opportunities and challenges, but one thing is for certain, it’s also creating a lot more confusion. Within this cloud of AMS confusion is the question of how Data Governance and your AMS affect and impact each other.


What exactly is an AMS?

On the surface, it’s a tool that allows an association to manage its core operations to include the collection of member data, event registration, dues collection, email marketing and more. But at its core, an AMS is really nothing more than a data repository with varying degrees of functionality. As with most tools that rely on data, the output is only as good as the input. As I mentioned in a previous blog, you can’t simply plug a fancy tool into bad data and expect magic to happen. This might include an AI tool, a voice application or even a new AMS. If the data that your AMS relies on is siloed, dirty and unreliable, putting a new AMS on top of that bad data is going to create a whole new set of challenges.


Why then is Data Governance so critical to the expected promise of a new AMS?

If you think about it, your AMS can be part of your organization’s Data Governance strategy, but Data Governance is so much more than a tool or repository. Data Governance is really just consistency, speaking the same language and creating data that everyone in the organization understands, trusts and can rely on – all things that are critical with regards to the expectations of a new AMS. With that in mind, the most challenging part of Data Governance is the human element. No matter how great our AMS is or how many data warehouses or data lakes we have, at the end of the day we have a lot of data being handled by people in various business functions across your association who in many cases, use their own processes to manage the Enterprise’s data assets. Even if these people have a shiny new AMS to use, the lack of Data Governance that existed before the new AMS and lead to so many challenges with data reliability and ultimately an inability to trust data that is so critical to making strategic decisions, will continue to serve as the data foundation of the new AMS.


Here’s the good news – Data Governance isn’t as difficult, scary or even as expensive as you might think. It happens one piece at a time, along a scale of maturity (as my colleague Vikas Arya explains here in a recent blog on our Data Governance Maturity Model). And, you can even begin mapping out your Data Governance remediation plan just prior to your AMS upgrade and complete many of those fixes alongside your AMS upgrade. This is exactly what we discussed with the association I mentioned at the beginning of this article. They quickly realized that a Data Governance plan had to be put in place prior to the beginning of the new AMS implementation, as the two were inextricably linked together. They don’t have to fix all of their Data Governance problems prior to the new AMS, but they do need to make sure that their AMS is part of their Data Governance plan, so that it delivers maximum value to their association. Thus, why we caution all associations, never put the AMS cart before the Data Governance horse!

As we move into the future, whether you’re an association or a for-profit company, Data Governance will become the backbone of every organization, supporting architecture, systems and tools that make up your data operations. How you manage, store and utilize your data will ultimately determine how successful you are at serving your members and achieving your missions.

So please, do not put your AMS cart before the Data Governance horse.