Data is transforming the way business owners operate, enabling better insight, faster decision-making and improved efficiencies.
How to channel the power of business data
Data is transforming the way business owners operate, enabling better insight, faster decision-making and improved efficiencies. Real-time dashboards can track a huge variety of data and give an instant snapshot of your company’s performance. Whether it’s getting to grips with your cashflow, growing sales, generating leads, marketing insight or day-to-day admin, a comprehensive online dashboard can take the pain out of handling different data in different places.
I think owner-managed businesses have more flexibility than larger corporates, because the volume of data involved is more manageable. You don’t need a system that’s overly complex or bespoke. You can build what you need based on a range of interacting products that are cost effective and flexible.
It’s hard to escape all the hype around big data, but many people still don’t truly understand what it is. Big data is simply a term that describes the large volume of data that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. Knowing how to organise and use this data is what really matters. Getting to grips with the variety of data in your business – being able to analyse it to set realistic KPIs and make better strategic decisions – is key.
You don’t need a system that’s overly complex or bespoke. You can build what you need.
Online dashboards allow you to see all your critical business data in one place. Dashboards can help you market to customers more effectively, design and manufacture products, increase revenue, streamline operations, forecast more accurately and better manage inventory.
A lot of the accounting systems will have a dashboard that just pulls together the accounts side of things – but newer dashboard software now takes this a stage further, so you can combine and compare data from your accounts, customer relationship management (CRM) and inventory management systems to your online bank account. It means they’re all in one place; when you log in to your bank, you have all the different elements in a dashboard that might help you to run your business smarter.
Examples of dashboards available include Spotlight Reporting, Futrli, Cyfe, Looker and Zoho Analytics. Some dashboards can be provided by third parties such as your bank, for example the SmartBusiness Dashboard tool from Barclays Bank, which permits businesses to attach new or existing apps to their online bank account from a variety of providers.
What data should you use?
This technological revolution means owners can now custom-build a digital dashboard that displays all their key data in one place. So, what data should they include?
It’s important that business owners identify what operational data drives the output in their own enterprise. Ask yourself, what are the levers in the business that you need to know but do not track – then build the outputs around that.
If you’re creating an accounts system, we would always say as a minimum to get a data entry system; an accounts process system and a reporting tool at the end. But the other systems to seriously consider would be CRM and debt collection. Key data should focus on your top ten or 20 customers, alongside key suppliers.
This enables you to make better-informed decisions about the types of types of clients or suppliers you’re good at dealing with and want to have for the future. Beyond that, it’s more bespoke to the nature and feel of your industry.
It’s not all about the data
While technology is invaluable in automating business processes, relationships are still vital.
It’s all very well doing everything digitally but to continue being successful, you still need to know who your key business relationships are with.
And sitting down at a board meeting to consider the outputs of all the information you’ve put in is the most informative bit.
That’s where you’ll decide how – and where – to drive the business.
What KPIs and data do you use in your business?