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How to take advantage of data analytics as an SME

In 2018, data analytics is no longer a trend, but a core part of the business model for businesses around the world. Just last month, research showed that 53% of all businesses globally are making use of data analytics to drive business intelligence.

Looking at the tiering of industries, it is interesting to see that in sectors dominated by large enterprises, such as in financial services, have participated more heavily in data analytics. For global companies, it is easier to invest in a team of analysts and data scientists that can crunch the numbers for you and derive business insights on a massive scale. In fact, Gartner has predicted that by 2019, 90% of large enterprise companies will have a Chief Data Office (CDO).

Further research however, shows that the smallest businesses, with less than 100 employees, are the most aggressive of all businesses in their plans for analytics and BI adoption in the 12, 24 and 36-month timeframes.

If you’re a smaller business with aspirations of analytics excellence, how can you get a piece of the pie and take a deeper advantage of the data your own company is generating? Thanks to a range of self-service analytics tools, you don’t need a specialised team of data analysts to get started, just a head for numbers and the right tools for the job.

So how to get started…

1. Set Realistic Goals

In order to generate intelligent results that improve efficiencies or make a discovery, it’s important to decide what you are looking for. For example, if you’re a business with customers or clients, it’s generally accepted that the better the user experience, the more likely they are to come back – the customer is king after all.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a quick test project, it’s worth the time investment to analyse your feedback and reviews against factors such as how long customers spent speaking with customer service, or how long the product took to arrive. From there you can use those insights to set realistic targets for your team to achieve in the following quarter and see how the customer service is improved when certain variables are adjusted.

2. Find Your Data

You may be surprised by the amount of data your company already has on record. Most CRM platforms store everything possible in relation to the customer’s purchasing journey and their relationship with your business. From number of purchases, to time spent on site, and the path through digital properties, there is a trove of data just waiting to be uncovered.

It’s also likely, that if you don’t already have a big data structure in place, your data will be in a number of disparate locations, based on how you are communicating externally, and the different tools used. Start with the CRM system or a basic database of contacts, and then move onto other mediums, identifying, cataloguing, and bringing value to light.

Your telephone system probably tracks all calls made and received - and there may be a separate repository of call recordings if you have a customer service team. Also look at your accountancy system, email records and social media accounts for further data. Arguably, the phone is still the medium of choice for many companies, so call analytics is a great place to start by capturing them and weaving into your organisation’s customer service strategy.

3. Empower your business experts to use data effectively

Finding all this data and collating it may seem like a big task, but there are cost-effective analytics solutions that firms can use to empower their teams to act as business analysts (that is, business people who can analyse their own data). Solutions which let them access, blend and analyse data from multiple systems and sources to uncover hidden insights without relying on IT specialists or programmers. Investing in a data analytics platform unlocks even more value as users can share whole workflows and models, allowing the business to learn and grow from every piece of work as a living data culture…

By enabling your business users to access the insights from data analytics your company can start providing more tailored, engaging experiences based on a multi-dimensional view of each customer. For example, one small, regional bank maintains its competitive advantage over larger institutions through how well integrated customer analytics has become, right down to the branch level. Local managers can tap into analytics in order to tailor the local customer experience, helping retain customers.

4. Spread a Data Culture Throughout your SME

The benefits don’t begin and end with just the customer. Access to user-friendly self-service data analytics capabilities will also deliver untold benefits across a range of departments.

What tends to happen in a small business where the analytic process in unplanned, is that employees begin to do their data work in siloes using the wrong tools like spreadsheets. It’s very easy to get started with spreadsheets as most companies will already have access to them. However, in the long run these enthusiastic, self-made data analysts can get stuck into their own siloes, rather than broadening their knowledge and lending their skills to the wider business.

The good news is that there are simple steps an organisation of any size can take to centralise all of its data assets, and to share insights out to all parties – with proper data governance at all times. To properly democratise data assets among all employees, it’s a good idea to set up a business analytics hub that can provide guidance and support in order to encourage employees to learn and use new techniques. This can serve across all business departments and guide line of business analysts with best practice and better governed data.

Additionally, this hub can help to break down departmental silos. Line of business analysts should be free to use and query the data they need to, wherever it comes from. It’s very easy for advanced spreadsheet users to become siloed, even within an SME. If you are struggling with this issue, think about departments that are naturally aligned and work on breaking those down. For example, an easy pair to incorporate is marketing and sales, or HR and operations since their data needs tend toward similarity.

Hopefully the above guide will enable you to consider kick-starting a self-service analytics programme at your company. Overall, the most important thing is to lead by example. If your colleagues are not familiar with analytics then start raising it during meetings, put it on the company agenda, and show off the work of data pioneers, and you’ll start reaping the benefits in no time.

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