For any business, it’s vital to understand not only the importance of using data in the modern world, but also how this data can be shaped to fit in with your business model.
There’s no doubt about it, data is important. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), data use can be the difference between sinking or swimming, especially in times of economic hardship. With access to high-quality data and analytics, business leaders are empowered to make informed decisions, based on trusted insights.
Whether it’s used to monitor and optimise your operations, or to locate possible sources of error or even to identify needless expenses, the business value drivers for the application of data are endless.
After all, data is knowledge and knowledge is, ultimately, power. That’s why we’ve designed our data and analytics maturity framework for SMBs, to help business leaders to understand their current level of maturity, so they can take actionable steps to becoming a more data-driven organisation.
Our framework is comprised of six categories:
- Culture and Skills
This guide is focused on the data aspect of our maturity framework, providing your business with expert guidance on the following dimensions:
To start analysing data efficiently and effectively, the best place to start is by focusing on the business challenges and then identifying the data can help inform decisions in those areas. To ensure your data is in a state to be used correctly, you may face some challenges.
Are you finding it difficult to transfer analysis from structured to semi-structured and unstructured data sets? Is data availability and access something you feel like you’re struggling with? Are you having some trouble handling and processing your data, or even finding it difficult to convince business partners of the importance of business data?
No matter your data worries, we’ve produced a series of resources to help you create a smarter, more data-driven business.
1. Data Variety
Data can come in all shapes and sizes, with different sources of data providing different insights into each aspect of your business.
For example, in recent years social media has gone from a useful source of direct consumer communication to an essential platform, responsible for the success of thousands of marketing campaigns and a huge source of consumer data. Companies have built themselves from the ground up through social media usage, giving them access to a wide variety of data beyond structured internal sources.
Data can be incredibly diverse, but with diversity comes complexity. Many companies are quite comfortable utilising structured data, but with additional data sources coming from social media, surveys, images, audio and more, businesses have to become comfortable analysing data from semi-structured and unstructured sources.
Making smarter analytical decisions is the key to staying competitive, and harnessing the power of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data helps to power key decision making to improve business processes, reduce costs and maximise value.
All businesses deal with structured data and that is definitely the place to start when it comes to handling your data. However, semi structured and unstructured data use is also vital for modern businesses, no matter of size or data maturity stage.
In fact, most of the data present in our world is unstructured, coming in forms such as images, audio or video as well as PDFs or invoices. Without the ability to harness this enormous amount of information, SMBs may be missing out on key information to form their decision making. Working with semi-structured and unstructured data may sound like a tough task, but in the end, the possible growing pains are vastly outweighed by the huge benefits these data sets can bring to your business.
Sometimes, being a smaller organisation stepping-out into the world of data can be a huge advantage, especially when you have expert guidance. If your business is quite early in its data and analytics maturity journey, you’re in a perfect place to plan for future scale. It’s also much easier to get into great data handling practices, because there are fewer data handling habits that you may need to break first.
2. Data Availability
Before your business can start generating insight from your data, the data first needs to be available for analysis! Data availability can mean different things to different businesses who are at different stages of data maturity. For example, a business that is just starting out its journey to data and analytics maturity could start by identifying, documenting and sharing their data efficiently and appropriately for analysis.
This type of change can come in a few ways, but one of the first ways to create efficiency in data availability is to introduce and train staff in more efficient data tools beyond Microsoft Excel to improve data visualization and data prep.
However, as organisations grow, data availability becomes less about methods of visualisation and more about the automation of the data preparation process and the widespread accessibility of data for departments across the company. This can be achieved by ensuring the data is extracted and prepared in a consistent and automated manner for analysts to consume.
Businesses should also implement resilient mechanisms for accessing, minimising the possibility of data becoming unavailable for analytics.