You Have the Data, Now What? How to turn data into usable information to improve your business.

The need for Data Analytics has never been bigger than it is today. From understanding what’s going on inside your business, to understanding the customers you so loyally serve! Whether you are part of a multinational corporation or a small start-up, chances are there is more data around than you realize.

In an age of connected technology, it is not getting hold of the data that is the difficult part. From your accounting software to your website everything is stored and tracked, just waiting to be analyzed. But, there is a big difference between having data, and using data. So often, people think they are reporting well because they see information. A list of customers who haven’t bought from us in 6 months, is information. Judging how valuable each customer is to the business based on this, is insight. It is insight that will really allow you to bring greater value to the business.

“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion”

– W. Edward Deming

Quality not Quantity

Chances are, you have tons of data. Across multiple tools, inputted by multiple users. Great, right? Except, here’s where most problems come in. The quality of your data far out ways the quantity. The ability to be able to analyze every area of your business is an attractive prospect. However, analyzing data that’s poorly collected or grouped is the first road block in any data exploration process. In the simplest example, imagine you are trying to analyze sales of Product A. But, across you systems Product A has many names, ProdA, A, Product a, Product A, productA.

You can already see the problems that can occur on the simplest of levels. It is for this reason that your first priority across any database or data warehouse must be consistency. Clean up your data. Whether it’s a retrospective clean up or a change in data entry. It is pivotal to the success of your analysis that the data you are working with is clean, accurate and accessible.

Now for the good bit…

So you have a strong starting point, a set of quality data. Now you can get stuck into the fun stuff – the analysis! The type of analysis you are looking to produce will determine which analysis tool you use. The market is flooded with different tools, ranging in ability and price. You can see my top three business intelligence tools here. Personally, my tool of choice is Microsoft’s Power BI. It is a system designed to move on from Excel and feels very familiar to use. But what every tool you choose, make sure it gives you what you want. If you want to be able to analysis across multiple data sources, produce exciting visuals and share the information, these are all things you must take into account.

When starting out with analytics, especially in SMB, start measuring the basics. So many organizations fail to track their simplest metrics. But you can’t know what questions to ask about your business, if you do not have visibility over the basics. It continues to surprise me how many business owners and managers do not measure the fundamental performance indicators. Instead, they really purely on their instincts. How do you measure success? For many the answer will be profit. So, it makes sense that you measure each area of the business on its profit.

Answering the Questions

At itas, a huge part of the team is our support team. The support team have KPI’s on display every day – how many cases have been logged, closed, and by who. But behind the screen, we also track trends across days, weeks and months. Allowing us to ensure we are maximizing the resource by changing staffing levels appropriately. Which leads me to my second point, anything you measure must be actionable. You must be prepared to shift and change in order to react to the analysis. Using the insight you have gained is where the power of data is implemented.

The main thing to bear in mind when indulging in data analytics is simply, ‘what is the question I am trying to answer?’ In the Support Desk example, the question is ‘how are we managing case volume this week?’ The answer is up on the screen for the whole team to see. It is easy to be consumed and carried away by potential of your data. And you can end up creating tons of charts and visualizations that realistically you are never going to use. At all times, remember the end goal. Does this report answer the question? Does this Dashboard provide me with the tools I need to drive my business forward?

No matter how good you may consider your analysis to be, there is a good chance that your end users will want more. One of the greatest things about data analytics, is the way it encourages progressive thinking. You may very well have answered the questions, but if you have done it well there should be even more questions raised from it.

Kate Jones is a Business Intelligence Specialist at itas Solutions. A graduate of Mathematics, with experience in Marketing and Finance Kate is passionate about all things Data! Outside of work, she is a keen footballer and music enthusiast.

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