Divorce Your Association’s Data From Email

As we embark into our third decade of the 21st century, it strikes me that we still rely so heavily on email.  One could argue that it’s an outdated method of communication, but that’s not what should concern us most. The real problem is that so many associations also depend upon email as a platform for data storage. File attachments, spreadsheets, PDFs, registrations, contracts, submissions, and more all come in through a channel invented in 1972.  All this email data has a litany of red flags:

  • It takes manual effort to move files and attachments from your inbox to a more appropriate place—effort we may forget, or even deem unworthy.
  • Data backup services may leave email data unprotected.  Often, this won’t come to your organization’s attention until there’s a change or issue in email service.
  • Email is generally insecure, especially compared to other data management platforms. 
  • Inboxes are full of static that you’ve got to dig through to find what you need. Internal data from SaneBox has shown that the average inbox contains only 38% important, relevant emails.
  • There’s tremendous inefficiency in email data management. McKinsey says we spend 28% of our workweek managing email and 20% searching for internal information. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s time to break up the gang.  No matter how long “it’s always been done this way,” there’s a better way that doesn’t involve switching windows between email and your relevant task-related software an extra 168 times in a workday. Yes, researchers at UC Irvine and the U.S. army found that email access increases window swaps from 18 to 37 times per hour.  It’s not hard to see why.  A better-integrated channel would smooth out the workflow, save time, and preserve concentration.

Associations also tend to deal with a lot of confidential, personal information from their membership base.  This makes unencrypted email a huge security risk for sensitive data accepted during application and submission processes.  Consider the information that members and speakers must provide for scholarships, grant applications, conference registrations, abstract submissions, and other email data collection tasks.

But it’s easy to ignore the risks. Somehow, 89% of law firms reported in a LexisNexis survey that they mainly share confidential information via unencrypted email, even though 70% of firms report being aware of secure file sharing. The primary security measure for 77% of firms? A confidentiality statement at the bottom of the email.  Yikes.

What Can We Do About Email Data?

Storing all your data in email leads to excruciating manual sorting, wasted time digging for relevant files, and it can even get your materials lost or stolen.  The answer is simple: stop using email to collect data.

Applications and submissions should be integrated directly into the software stack for your association’s core functions.  Most businesses are turning to secure, cloud-based file-sharing platforms and software that combines the ability to collect (and sort, and store) files with the ability to communicate with members quickly, all in the same interface.

OpenWater fits this mold, which is why we recommend it as a solution for associations frustrated with the hurricane of emails, PDFs, and spreadsheets that they’ve dealt with for years.  Our software incorporates:

  • A secure, fully customizable form builder that integrates seamlessly with your website
  • A robust, end-to-end stack of products for collecting and organizing submissions
  • Integrated communication and messaging (both personalized and automated) for users
  • A review module with flexible rounds, rules, and scoring formats
  • A comprehensive REST API for managing the entire lifecycle of your program

If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve got dozens of use cases and a teachable course with videos of the software in action. We’ll help you ditch email data management and streamline your workflow.

Tech Checklist - What to Look for in an Application and Review System