Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 34 seconds

Not everyone needs to be a data scientist, but every company should utilize data to understand their business better. I spoke to Chad Rummel, Executive Director of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) about what data means to him and how his organization is using statistics to succeed.

Can you please tell me a little about your organization SPSP? Who Uses your Services?
SPSP is an organization for social and personality psychologists around the world. About half of our members are researchers or work in applied settings, while the other half are students of the field.

Why Is SPSP so important?
SPSP supports the growth, collaboration and education of our behavior researchers. When we understand how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are influenced by the environment and presence of others, we can learn more about ourselves and the world and make it a better place.

What have been some of SPSP’s highlights and successes?
SPSP continues to grow worldwide, both in terms of membership and our outreach via online learning and scientific publication. Our annual convention continues to be the world’s biggest gathering of social and personality psychologists, and our three journals continue to have top impact factors in the field.

How does SPSP use data?
SPSP uses data to understand who our members are, both in aggregate and individual form. When association execs talk about data, they usually think about Big Data or the massive amounts of gigabytes they have in the database. And while that is important, SPSP is just as much concerned about the individual data profile of any one person. When someone doesn’t renew, for example, we have data on who that person is specifically. This allows us to cater the experience to them.

Can you talk more about the data profile that SPSP is developing?
To think of it in a corporate manner, associations have “product lines.” We succeed when our product lines are meeting the needs of our members. A good data profile will tell us who are our consumers of various products, who are potential consumers of various products, etc. So a data profile of any member allows us to collect data on what makes them belong to SPSP, what engages them with SPSP, and what might engage them further. Our data profile also encompasses EVERY piece of data we collect. So if we ask a question on a registration form, that data is stored in ONE central repository. We have moved from having a membership database with several APIs to various software to one completely integrated AMS that incorporates everything into one profile.

In a previous conversation you brought up a good point that your younger constituents are asking for more data driven products and tools, while your older clients may not be. How do you bridge that gap between younger, more tech savvy clients and older clients who may not be interested in the data aspect?
The great thing about using member data is that members don’t know when you are using it. What they do know is if they are getting the experience they are looking for. Having a data profile on a long-term member allows you to communicate with them about what has proven to be of interest in the past. And with younger members, when we collect any kind of engagement data, we can react to that instantly—exactly what they want.

Data kind of took off and a lot of companies are trying to catch up, would you say SPSP are in the same boat?
SPSP is unique in that as an organization, we thrived for many years on a “if you build it, they will come” motto, and it worked. From a helicopter view, though, SPSP wasn’t maturing at the rate it should or could have been. As such, until 2013, the limited data we had lived in an Excel file!

How are you making strides to catch up?
Once SPSP started collecting data, it was sand in the wind… try to collect as much as you can and figure out how to use it later. Now our data collection is extremely intentional. We do not collect a piece of data that doesn’t have a use for us, thus limiting unnecessary data. This allows us to put all of our data in one piece and build out our profiles by using an AMS that allows for all our data to interface in one place.

How were you able to keep up with the growing trends?
Our data collection is SPSP-specific. We don’t collect unnecessary data, and data we collect (except for anonymous surveys), is shared across programs/products. It’s also crucial that data is kept current, so we constantly push members through data updates when necessary.

Do you use any data-centric software to help you digest the data?
Whether it’s Tableau, a data visualization tool, SQL/R programming, analytics software etc. There is not a software we use for day-to-day analysis other than Microsoft Excel. We have some Excel wizards on staff that build out our tools. The only time we use software for analysis is for big data collections on things like surveys, at which point we use Qualtrics or SPSS.

What direction do you see data going into the future?
I think that associations have a long way to go in learning how to segment. Often, the default segments we use are based on member type. However, there is so much more data hidden throughout every association. So first, we have to learn to put it all in one place. And then we have to learn to automate our data analysis so that we can respond to it immediately, both as threats and opportunities. This is where platforms like Informz are extremely useful with marketing automation. We also have to learn to analyze for deviations in our data as part of our daily routine—deviations often tell us where we missed the gap in member expectation. For example, if you have 500 members who come to your annual convention EVERY year, and in one year you discover that 150 of them did not register by early-bird deadline, that’s a signal right away that something isn’t meeting this important group’s needs and there’s still time to correct. Having standard data that are analyzed on continual basis across product lines will become part of our daily responsibilities. In the future, we will all learn more about what data we have and how we can analyze it—this will be a part of every job function across the association, not just the responsibility of the membership or marketing department.

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 August 2019
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Danielle Loughnane

Danielle Loughnane earned her B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has currently been working in the data science field since 2015. She is the author of a comic book entitled, “The Superhighs” and wrote a blog from 2011-2015 about working in the restaurant industry called, "Sir I Think You've Had Too Much.” In her spare time she likes reading graphic novels and snuggling with her dogs.

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