Chamber moves data to the forefront

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The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is ready to harness the power of its data.

To that end, the organization has hired Rochester-based Cause+Effect Strategy, a business intelligence firm, to lead an effort to create efficiencies and maximize revenue generation. CE Strategy will work with the chamber to integrate data and analytics into every department.

“Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is proud to serve our members and the nine-county community in a wide variety of ways,” says Bob Duffy, chamber president and CEO. “In order to remain at the forefront of business in this innovative region, and as part of our continued effort to expand and enhance our offerings, we are maximizing our use of data and technology.” 

John Loury

Adds John Loury, co-founder and president of CE Strategy: “To us that means assisting the chamber in more effectively leveraging data; from a people, process and technology perspective to help them achieve their goals for growth and retention.”  

Since its inception in 1887, the chamber has undergone a number of business shifts, mergers and transitions. Roughly 16 years ago, the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Management Council merged to form the Rochester Business Alliance. RBA rebranded in 2016 to its current name.

The chamber supports businesses in the Rochester and Finger Lakes region, acting as a source for information, advocacy, human-resources services and networking. Its goal is to help employers grow, in turn growing the regional economy. 

The data project will begin with a review of the chamber’s business process and associated data sources across departments including talent strategy and workforce development, finance, membership, marketing, operations, advocacy and human resources. 

“We begin with collaboratively defining what the key business drivers are for the organization and what an ideal state for using data to help achieve those would be,” Loury says. “Then we do a deep dive on the current state, the role data plays within each business driver, how it may change, and ultimately how success will be measured.”

The chamber will decide the pace of transformation, Loury says. For now, the project is based on a phased approach. CE Strategy will work with Duffy’s team to establish the “ideal state” for data use along with a business process and data source review.

The process includes identification of fragmented data and determining where technology can bridge the gaps with solutions and partnerships that address cloud storage, database development, business intelligence tools, website development, and customer relationship management among other needs.

“We needed a cutting-edge data analytics firm to help us identify where we could improve and better leverage data insights to support both our revenue-generation efforts and our staff,” says Shannon Ealy, senior manager of marketing and engagement at the chamber, who is spearheading the project. “Because of its strength and expertise in data analysis and business strategy, we are confident that CE Strategy can help position us for ongoing success.”

Loury’s firm will also address the change initiatives needed to make these transitions both effective and an integrated part of the chamber’s daily operations, with the goal of improving them. He believes this effort will identify internal and external areas of opportunity to deliver on key performance indicators and measure progress toward them.

“By consolidating and tying data sources together from both advanced systems to disparate data sources, the chamber can more clearly see the impact one part of the organization has on another, thereby opening the door to opportunities for optimization across the organization,” Loury says. “The data insight gained will allow quicker decision making and response to trends, enabling more innovation in both product/service offerings within the chamber.”

Switching operations to a data-driven infrastructure isn’t an easy task. While young businesses have had the advantage of beginning with a data mindset, older organizations can find it a daunting task. Reports suggest that without mining data organizations can be slow to respond and innovate. Identifying outcomes is the key to success, experts say.

“Digital transformation is a cultural change as well as tactical change in how processes are carried out within an organization,” Loury says. “As a result, two of the largest stumbling blocks for organizations are prioritization and accountability. Organizations get excited about the potential data science and data insights can bring them, but digital transformation is a journey that starts with a good foundation.”

Without that, Loury says, issues related to scalability, return on investment, and project abandonment are common. 

“Accountability is also a major challenge,” he says. “Leadership is responsible for tying employees’ hearts and minds into the larger vision for digital transformation as they work through their resistance to change the ways they work to become more efficient and profitable.”

In this case, the Chamber is ready to take the first step.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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