Where do you sit on the Data Maturity Spectrum?

Where do you sit on the Data Maturity Spectrum?

Not a question you get asked every day, but it’s one that I recently asked the delegates at the start of the first of four workshops Using and Managing Data in Fundraising - part of Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy’s training programme. It’s an interesting question if you want to evaluate whether and how much scope there is to develop the ways in which you and your organisation make the best use of data and the tools at your disposal.

So what is the Data Maturity Spectrum? In their influential paper, “Counting What Counts”, Anthony Lilley and Professor Paul Moore asked: “What can Big Data do for the Cultural Sector?” Their focus is directed towards the emergence of vast volumes of digital data, but I would argue the mind-set in relation to data use and management applies equally to data both ‘Big’ and small. Their suggestion of a Data Maturity Spectrum is a means of understanding at which stage organisations might be positioned on their journey to data maturity:

Data 1.0 – organisations hold some customer data, but use it in relatively unsophisticated ways and mainly for marketing and sales.

Data 2.0 - organisations that are starting to recognise the latent value in the different kinds of data that they capture, and are starting to make steps in applying it, but most often not in very integrated ways (digital data is treated separately from everything else) and in ways that are often inconsistent both internally and externally, e.g. in comparison to the way peer organisations are working.

Data 3.0 - those organisations that are really starting to embrace some of the potential that they recognise as latent in their customer data. From both the physical and digital domains -to create insights that are greater than the sum of those parts and where data is used to measure and inform impacts more than activities or outputs. These organisations truly embrace a data driven decision making approach in their management and in their governance.

Training delegates on the Using and Managing Data for Fundraising course have so far all reported their organisations as being at Data 1.0 or Data 2.0 stages. Though they all expressed the ambition to be working at Data 3.0, some felt that they were well on their way to Data 3.0, but others reported as just starting out. I think that this met with my overall experience in talking with arts and cultural organisations – namely that there are wide ranging levels of skill and capacity in using and managing data on a fairly uneven playing field. But, importantly most organisations recognise this and are actively working towards improving their situation. For those delegates on the course, I think them being there was evidence of this recognition.

Pie Chart for Leo's blog
Further evidence of these emerging and improving capacities came in their responses to some pre-course questions that were set which involved some elementary data mining. The questions required the ability (in terms of both resources and skills) to be able to link data on donors with data on attenders to performances, and to report some basic results. The chart below shows that a slight majority of delegates were able to compete the task. Another large proportion reported that they could potentially complete the task, but that their present capacity in terms of systems and skills would make this a little more difficult. Finally a minority were presently unable - for a number of reasons, relating to both skills and resources to complete the task.

This variety of responses and capacities reflects perfectly the assortment of data sources and skills that fundraisers and organisations have and how they use them. It also made for a really engaging day’s training where delegates were able, not only to learn from the theories of data management and case studies of best practice that were presented, but also to share and gain from each other’s everyday practice and experiences, e.g. their successes and failures.

During the day we explored the different data and databases that are available and that organisations use; the strengths and weaknesses of the various software packages that people use and what they liked and disliked about them; and the different ways in which fundraisers might want to use data to gain insights to develop their plans and practices accordingly. Delegates were also introduced to a range of tools to help them segment and target existing and potential donors, such as Audience Spectrum, the new arts and cultural segmentation and profiling system that offers insights on propensity and patterns of giving amongst the population. We also addressed some of the challenges that fundraisers face. These ranged from accessing data on patrons that is consistent across the organisation, to efforts at co-ordinating communications with other departments in order to present a consistent, single message.

We ended the day with a team exercise where the delegates prepared a Dragon’s Den style pitch in competition to secure the budget for a campaign which the teams designed, using some of the resources and techniques they’d explored during the day. I was impressed with the creativity and energy that was displayed by all participating - and the fun they had in doing it! At the end of the day all the delegates felt that they would be going away with some useful learning, theories, tips, resources or contacts to help move them up and along the Data Maturity Spectrum. The main challenge for them now once back in their roles, is to apply that learning to good effect. I think it’s a worthwhile challenge as the achievement of extracting the value that lies within our data and data management resources, and moving up the maturity spectrum, will ultimately contribute to creating more resilient, sustainable organisations and a stronger cultural sector overall.

Leo Sharrock is Head of Data Strategy at The Audience Agency. He is running our one-day course on 'Using and managing data in fundraising' in London on 26 November 2014, Leeds on 21 January 2015 and Bristol on 18 March 2015 - book now via these links.