SMEs: Make Use of Your Business Data in Just One Hour a Week

Last Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013 by Rhys Morgan

Recently, many large companies have begun using a data-driven approach to decision making. However, what we at Target Dashboard have always thought is that data analysis can help companies of any size improve their business. If you’re running a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), there is no need to feel daunted at the prospect of starting data analytics: any business can make use of data.

This short article has been written with SMEs in mind; in our experience, smaller businesses often have fewer employees with a wider range of responsibilities. Unlike large corporations, there isn’t usually an employee dedicated to data analytics. Therefore, for those who need to juggle many different responsibilities, here are a few tips for making data management manageable!

1. Have a clear goal in mind – Use KPIs

You may have come across the old adage, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. However, while it’s always better to collect data than not, organising and analysing a large amount of data is a time consuming activity. Therefore, it is essential to have a clear set of goals and objectives for your data, which will help you focus on only collecting the data you need.

The goals which you set for your data management will most likely overlap with any key performance indicators you may have. As your KPIs are what you judge your business’ progress by, they are a great starting point for setting your data management goals.

For example, if one of your KPIs is monthly sales figures, you will want to collect data which directly affects sales. With a KPI as broad as sales, it is best to focus on collecting data from a few important sources. This could be the number of visits to a website (more visits could convert to more sales) or sales of a certain product (some products generate more profit than others). These will now serve as KPIs alongside your original ones.

No matter what your goals are, they should be logical and realistic. In my experience, it’s best to keep your goals relatively simple.

Once you’ve decided on the important information which you need to collect, you can then find a manageable way of collecting and making use of your data.

2. Schedule Your Data Organisation and Maintenance

While analysing data can aid you in every decision you make (and therefore may be done on the fly), it pays to take time out to organise your data so that analysis can be done quickly and easily. In a small or medium-sized business, finding this time can be hard. Therefore, it can be best to do your analysis once a month, or even once a week, depending on the type of data you collect. All you need is around half an hour to an hour, in which you should do the following:

a. Gather your data into one place

Initially, gathering your data can be quite tricky. Data such as sales figures can be easily noted down and stored, but it can be hard to consistently do this. But, although it can be tedious, making a habit of noting down important data as it occurs will help a lot in the long run.

Ideally, your data should already be stored in a way which is easily accessible, but realistically, your data will be contained in different Excel files, stored online or even written down on paper. Therefore, collecting your data together should be your first step.

b. Compare related data for values and trends

Once you’ve gathered your data, analysis can begin. If you’re new to this, it is best to concentrate on two things: value changes and trend comparison. With the former, simply take two related KPIs (e.g. sales values and marketing spend), and compare their most recent values to the second most recent. Note down any changes, positive or negative, as they could be relevant to your business’ current performance. You can then use these changes to take informed action.

For trend comparison, simply chart a few intervals of measured data (e.g. for the past year) as a line chart. You can then see how that KPI has been performing. By comparing trend lines of different KPIs, you can see how they impact each other.

By using these two simple techniques, you can use your data to make informed decisions to improve performance, and not take days doing it. Simply dedicating a small amount of time to data analysis makes this manageable.

3. Take action, Monitor and Check Again

Once you’ve analysed your data, you will either go on as before, or change something in the way you’re currently operating. It might be something small, such as allocating a slightly larger marketing budget to a product, but it could make a large difference. After this, you must keep an eye on your data, seeing if there has been any difference in your KPI performance. Taking the time to evaluate your data will result in making the best decisions.

Now that you’ve begun using your data, it isn’t just a case of one time only. To get the most out of this, you should regularly keep track of and re-evaluate your business. It can get difficult to keep up a schedule, but you’ll reap the benefits in the long run.

You don’t need a Wealth of Time and Resources to Start Using Your Business Data

Business data is a very powerful resource for decision making, and it’s available to any business, including small and medium sized enterprises. Data exists, whether it is collected or not. The hard part is getting into the habit of using it. This guide has shown you a few tips for getting started with data organisation and analysis, without taking up too much time.

If you want to save even more time and effort with your data, data management and reporting software might be right for you. Our application Target Dashboard makes it easy for you to chart trends and values, and create reports too. Why nottry us out free for 14 days, or contact us to see how we can help you.