Using data in your business (Part 1)
Updated: 4 days ago
Your business generates data every day – even sending an email is a logged data point! More business owners and managers are becoming interested in how they can analyse and use their data to improve operations, understand bottlenecks and grow their company. There are many tools which offer enterprise grade dashboards, analytics and AI powered applications but in our experience, these rarely perform as expected. There are a number of hurdles which stop these exciting programs working to their full potential:
Poor data quality, collection and storage
Misunderstanding of the business data and use cases
Lack of appropriate data
There are also other considerations such as appropriate IT systems and internal data talent which can enable you to make the most of this technology. Our experience in working day to day scaling companies, we have identified some tips which will help you make the most of your business’ data. The crux is that simple and ‘boring’ processes must be understood and implemented before flashy dashboards and forecasts can be effectively constructed.
Pay attention to how your data is stored – is it in disparate spreadsheets or in purpose built systems such as a CRM or ERP? This will influence how easy it is to access and structure your data for analysis.
How good is your data quality – is it manually updated and prone to human error? Is it collected automatically? Is categorical data neatly categorised? Is each data series in a standardised format? Minimising the cleaning of data at the analysis stage will save significant time and resource.
Thinks about what your data tells you and then think about what you would actually like to know to improve your business. Remember that the business dog should not wag the data tail, not the other way round! Ultimately data should not be worked on for its own sake and the resource spent on analysis must be of use to improving your business.
Keep it simple – dashboards and visualisations are great but are easy to overcomplicate and simple statistics can be more insightful than cutting edge machine learning. Sometimes the most valuable insights are in taking the time to understand your data at its simplest level rather than look for patterns in numbers which may not even exist!
Good data governance should be part of business culture – your whole company generates data and therefore everyone should understand the importance of accuracy and good data habits. This includes everything from keeping digital and physical files logically organised (yes, physical files are also data!) to good cybersecurity procedures to consistent content format.
There are numerous ways to transform your business using the data you generate and it can be a powerful way to get miles ahead of your competition. There are many other benefits too; for example, saving yourself time when collating data for prospective buyers conducting a due diligence process. Clean and understandable data instantly positions you as a professional and high quality business. In a future piece, we will dive into techniques on generating actionable commercial insights from your business’ data.