To prosper we need to manage change, and be quick in doing it. Properly analyzing our business information is becoming increasingly important part of this. Where am I spending in my money, where is it working and not working, and, importantly, where should I be spending it for greater benefit? Your information is piling up, but are you getting the answers from it that you need?
Business analytics has become a discussion point for most businesses. While Business Intelligence (think traditional reporting) focuses on the past, analytics focuses on the future –gaining the insight needed to effectively influence strategy.
In a new world of ‘wait and be too late’, decision makers are looking for the right tooling to grab their real-time big data, unlock it’s secrets, and use them to make informed choices on what to do next. For the companies that have employed them, modern self-service analytics software has democratized access to business intelligence. It helps people throughout the business to get at the historical information they need quicker and easier.
They can slice and dice it, manipulating the information to test hypotheses for how to move forward. Anyone can, for example, quickly understand which products are performing best in which locations, and model the impact removing stagnant products will have on the bigger picture. Data models make it possible to explore what effect an increase in price, or a reduction in stock is likely to have. They can quickly understand the past, and use it to make intelligent decisions about the future.
Sounds appealing, but a degree of uncertainty persists in companies debating whether to fully pursue this new approach to steering the business. Do I have the right data? Do I have the people? Will the company buy-in? And how suited is it to what we do? Here we look at the questions in turn, and discuss why the wait should be over.
Don’t worry – your data is clean enough
How well you can understand the future is of course dependent on the accuracy of the data you’re exploring. Do we think something, or do we know it? Have we got the quantity and quality of data to really back up trends we claim to be seeing?
In most cases there will be some data cleanliness issues, but they shouldn’t be sufficient to stop a business applying analytics processes to their information. Take genuinely unusual results with a pinch of salt, and share your results with people on the ground to see if they are ‘feeling’ what you’re seeing. Chances are you’ve got more than enough transactional data to iron out the flaws.
It may be a new game, but you can steepen your learning curve
Many companies will have a range of analysts and researchers already looking through data for trends and anomalies. They will all have their own ideas about how to do things, and will all create success in their own ways. This can be handy when you introduce analytics to the business.
Bring them together and let them learn from each other, share their experiences and come up with creative ideas to add value. As you move forward with analytics, it will become increasingly important to ensure everyone stays up to date with the successes and advances made. If you’re specialists are a bit of an ad hoc entity, make sure it’s clear how valued and integral to the company they are. Creating dedicated career paths and proper HR support processes for their discipline will help.
Don’t think in disciplines – aim organization-wide
In addition to developing the right skills, bringing analytics in across the full width of the business should be the ambition. You’ll make real progress by gaining insights into your cross-functional processes, using them to create better flow between the silos of your company. Although analytics well service decision making in specific parts of the business or relating to specific KPIs, businesses should aim to unleash analytics on the pursuit of larger goals. Think beyond your individual teams and start steering the total organization.
Communicate top down buy-in
If an organization-wide commitment to producing and using analytics is to be created, it’s essential that senior management lead the way. They need to sing its praises and actively reinforce it’s worth. If everyone is going to commit to and trust the philosophy, bottom up isn’t going to cut it.
The board need to make sure it’s clear how important it is for the future of the business, and the impact it has on their decision making. Plans should be clearly linked to strategic objectives, with clear efforts to ensure everyone is sufficiently trained. Pursuing opportunities based on analytics results must become integrated with business culture.
Go for it!
Weighing up the pros and cons of including analytics in strategic decision making can be a lengthy process. Un-checked it can stop you indefinitely from benefitting from the information hidden in your company data.
It is a new way of doing things, but resisting taking the step is to give your competitors a hand. Carefully exploring the growing information in your company can highlight new opportunities you’re suited to exploiting. It can help you align better with your market, and uncover chances to do things quicker and cheaper.
Big data may be on everyone’s radar, but the concept is only as valuable as what you can do with it. Business analytics is the key to turning that information into profitable direction for your business. Understand where you’ve been, and with careful analysis, you can have a much better idea of where to go next.