How to use data to improve your business

How to use data to improve your business

As a business owner, you’ll no doubt hear a lot of noise around the value that data can deliver to your company – but not a lot about why it’s beneficial and how you can tap into these insights.

In reality, data touches practically every element of your business. From your annual sales figures to the daily footfall into your store, through to the amount of time staff spend on certain activities. These are all very different datapoints but every single one could be a valuable insight that you use to supercharge your operations. It can, however, be difficult to know where to start in harnessing this raw data and turning it into tangible insights.

That’s why we’ve created a quick guide on the why and the how, as well as key considerations that you should be thinking about when looking to data to improve your business.

Why is data important to my business?

The ability to record and analyse data is absolutely key in helping businesses improve processes, create greater efficiencies and, ultimately, grow.

Just being able to spot trends, turn these into valuable insights and then act on them has been shown to provide significant business benefits. ‘Future ready’ businesses – namely those that can unlock the potential of data – were found to be consistently more likely to fully realise the commercial potential of their analytics (Source: Vodafone’s Future Ready Report 2020).

While various sectors say they commercially benefit more from different types of data, the overall trend is clear: following data best practice can help to boost your business.

How can I use data to grow my business?

So, understanding that data is useful to your business, you could say, is the easy part. Harnessing it can be somewhat trickier. Our Future Ready Report also found that while many business recognise the advantages of data, most of the data they have is underutilised.

The good news is you don’t have to carry out an end-to-end data-led transformation straightaway. The best way to kick off a data strategy is to identify specific painpoints in your business and focus on those. Do you struggle to convert one-off customers into repeat business? Is your website suffering from single digit dwell times? Are you struggling to retain staff? All these challenges can be addressed by taking a data-led approach, but the key is that they don’t have to be solved all at once.

To understand how data can help in each scenario, it’s worth following a structured methodology. Here are five steps we’ve found useful:

  • Challenge: what is the bump in the road you are trying to solve in your business? How is this impacting your overall business strategy and results?

  • Set goals: benchmark where you are and where you want to be following your data strategy or project – don’t start anything until you know what you want to achieve, the metrics that will indicate success and key milestones in your journey

  • Realise: understand whether you even have data points available from your operations that are connected to gaining insights on this particular challenge

  • Uncover: make sure you convert that raw data into actionable insights – what does the data reveal about how you can enhance your business processes?

  • Play back: ensure any insights are then played back to relevant teams in your business. Not only will this help them to understand the value that data analysis delivers to the business (and may even inspire them to suggest new areas) but they will be primed to action required changes

Key considerations for data strategy best practice

Once you have the framework in place for taking a data-led approach, there are more simple considerations for managing, analysing and protecting your data. Here are a few thought starters:

Store data safely and privately

Any data you are responsible for needs to be stored safely. You also need to think about who in that organisation has access to that data – you might be a six-person team, but does everyone need access to it? How you manage that data will be governed by local and sector-specific laws, so you will need to do your own research into which are relevant to you. Your staff will also need to understand best practice for safely handling the data too.

It’s also good to know what you need to do in the event of a data breach.

Create data unity

While you can tackle data projects one at a time, your best bet is to unify your data into one place. After all, if you’re using a data management platform to understand customer trends – for example – you want as many sources to build up this picture as possible. This might mean cleaning and aligning the data formats, but once done, you should have access to a tranche of usable data – ready for turning into insights.

Analyse this

Your raw data is meaningless unless you have the ability to glean valuable analytics from it.

To do this, you’ll want to turn to a business intelligence solution such as Microsoft Power BI, Sisense or Tableau, among others. When choosing the right one, it’s worth considering what you need to get out of it: Ease of use? Collaboration? Data visualisation? Shop around to find the one that best suits you.

Additionally, it’s worth taking advantage of free bite-size courses that will help to upskill your workforce in using data such as those offered by the Data Literacy Project.

Looking for more help with using data? Speak to our expert V-Hub advisers for more guidance.

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