You've heard its siren song. You're enchanted by the allure of big data and all it can offer your business. But you also know the danger: the salary for an analyst may threaten to devour a huge chunk of your payroll. You know that making sense of business reports requires careful business analysis. What's an entrepreneur to do when faced with a powerful tool that might be too expensive to wield to its fullest extent?
We improvise, of course. That's what being an entrepreneur is all about—finding a way, even when one doesn't immediately present itself.
And data analytics pose a unique challenge for nearly all business owners. We know it's valuable, but we don't necessarily possess the business analysis skills that would make it easy to DIY. Fortunately, there are options. Good ones.
What Can Big Data Do for You?
Before I took the big data plunge, I had to be persuaded that it was genuinely useful.
Here's how big data works, from a layperson's perspective. The Internet of Things (IoT)—the degree to which practically everything and everybody is connected via the internet—makes collecting that information virtually effortless.
In order to figure out what information to pay attention to, you need to know what you want to achieve.
Most businesses generate enormous quantities of data. You have the opportunity to collect information and build a business report every time a prospective customer:
● visits your website,
● fills out a survey,
● sends an email inquiry,
● swipes a credit card at your register,
● makes a return or
● makes a payment.
That data is a goldmine, a treasure trove of insight into consumer behavior, marketing, ROI, expense management, employee efficacy and other aspects of your business too numerous to list here.
Of course, you have to know how to slice and dice that data to make it useful—to provide you with actionable insight that can guide your decisions. And that's where business analysis by a data analyst can come in. They're trained to help you wade through a sea of information and sift out what's useful from each and every business report.
While they do come at a cost, it's one that you may not necessarily have to pay.
Defining Your Goals
Before you dive into exploring the myriad of DIY data options, the first step is defining your goals.
In order to figure out what information to pay attention to, you need to know what you want to achieve. Data analytics can give you insight into practically any part of your company, so pick a couple and see what you can learn from detailed, data-based business analysis.
You might decide you want to improve the rate at which you convert prospects into customers. You could choose to cut expenses that don't really benefit your bottom line. Or you might want to take a look at how effective your customer loyalty program really is.
This part of the data analytics process can help make your business more efficient and profitable, while delivering excellent results for customers.
You're about to see how big data can be your secret weapon.
Acquiring the Right Tools
Here's a little secret: You probably already have data analytics tools at your disposal. Yes, really. You may have the tools for unlocking your business reports built into other tools you use every day.
For example, some business credit cards allow you to set of business reports that give you powerful insight into your expenses, shedding light on trends and areas in which you might be able to trim those expenses.
Using Facebook or other social media platforms to market your business? There are reports that have all sorts of information you can leverage into strategies for connecting with more customers and interacting in a way that's more meaningful. Since your data is already being analyzed—at least in bits and pieces—it makes sense to figure out what information you already have access to.
That said, you may have goals you can't achieve with just the analytics you already possess. But that shouldn't intimidate you. There are countless data analytics solutions available for entrepreneurs who need more comprehensive or precise information.
Again, defined by your goals and your industry, you can find data analytics that can be customized to suit your needs. Halo, for example, was created to solve planning and forecasting problems for supply chain management. Sisense is a versatile tool that provides insight that can enlighten business users and data scientists alike. Qlik Sense uses an associative engine to explore inquiries related to the ones you develop, giving you answers to business analysis questions you might not think to ask.
The tools are out there. By defining your goals, you can seek out the solutions that will help you achieve them.
As the world of business evolves and becomes increasingly sophisticated, our tendency can be to focus more exclusively on a specialty—an area of expertise. While there are certainly benefits to a deeper understanding in one specialty, it's easy to lose the benefits of a generalist's perspective.
You don't have to be a data scientist (or employ one) to gain insight from data analytics. There are tools available to you right now that can help even the least tech-savvy among us make sense of big data.
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