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All business owners around the world know how important data is in the modern world. While large companies look through huge datasets daily — even the smallest businesses will now collect reams of data on a regular basis. The amount of information collected by organizations has of course risen greatly in the digital landscape all firms now operate in.
Digital marketing, social media platforms and company websites are all huge sources of information for businesses and good examples of why data is so prevalent now. With more people spending time online and using the internet to connect with businesses, it has led to rising amounts of data collected by them to look through.
But why is this so crucial for companies and how do you get the skills to draw actionable insights from the data you gather?
Why is data critical in modern business?
Before we look at how to gain high-level data skills to use in your own business and what beneficial changes it could inspire, it is worth pinning down why this all matters so much. Any savvy entrepreneur will want to know this before investing time and resources into it, after all.
In simple terms, data is so essential in business now because it gives you hard facts to help you make key strategic decisions. Data collected on customers, for example, can show you what demographic you should be targeting and which parts of the world your website is most popular in. It will therefore enable you to build up a good understanding of your customer base. It is also handy for building up mailing lists for conducting future marketing campaigns.
It is not just customer data which can be very useful in your business. Information collected on products, for example, can tell you which have sold well or which have things about them customers do not like. By the same token, data on specific parts of your business can show you which departments are performing well or where productivity levels have dropped.
Collecting data is only half of the equation though, you also need to be able to draw accurate insights from it. But how can you gain the skills to do this in your own business?
How do you pick up high-level skills in data analytics?
If you run your own business and want to build up strong data analysis skills, education is the best solution. Enrolling on a course such as the Master of Science in Business Analytics at St Bonaventure University is a great example of this.
Their online MS in Business Analytics not only teaches you how to use the most common business analytics tools but is also 100% online. With no GMAT or GRE entry requirements either, it will teach you all you need to know in order to analyze data effectively in your own business.
What will you study on a data analytics course?
As you would expect, any course involving data analytics will focus on teaching students how to review information collected by businesses. Key concepts such as data warehousing, data visualization and prescriptive analytics will all be covered. In addition, predictive analytics, data mining, statistics, common data analysis techniques and data management will all be taught. This leaves graduates with a thorough knowledge of data analytics to use in their own companies.
Most courses in this field will also see students learn how to use common tools and software packages for data analysis. SPSS for example is a common software package for analyzing data and uses customer databases to carry out marketing analysis. It is also designed to allow advanced levels of statistical analysis to take place.
Tableau is another common tool taught on the best data analytics courses. This is designed to help companies visualize the datasets they have and understand them better. An intuitive platform to use, Tableau allows you to view data in a more visual way and makes it easier for data to inform business decisions.
Most decent courses involving the analysis of data will also teach established programming languages like Python, Java and SQS. Learning these kinds of programming languages is an effective skill for interrogating datasets and can really help you get the most from this part of business.
Once you study tools around technology in business like this, you will be all set to use what you have learned when reviewing data in your own organization. This is useful not only for the reasons mentioned earlier but also because it can throw up some beneficial short-term and long-term changes to consider making.
But what kind of changes might these be?
Greater efficiency and reduced costs
If we are talking about long-term changes to make in your business driven by data, then there are some good examples to think about. By seeing just what kind of benefits data-driven changes can make in the long term, business owners can properly see the positive impact data analytics delivers.
A great place to start is how data analytics can improve your business’s overall efficiency in the long term. This is something all companies aspire to and there is no doubt about how important it is to streamline your operations as much as possible.
By collecting data on your operations and using tools like SPSS to interrogate it, you will be able to see which parts of your business are not working as efficiently as they could be. Data analytics can also let you dig deeper into the reasons for this and show what is currently damaging efficiency in key business areas. This then enables you to deal with the specific issues holding your business back and boost overall productivity.
Data analytics can also be very useful for reducing business costs in the long term. Collecting key data to analyze around expenses, departmental spending, material costs and project budgets, for example, will show you exactly where costs can be slashed. It will also show you which parts of your business are overspending and what the specific causes of this might be. You may for example review data on your sales team which shows that travel expenses are sky-high and could be reduced.
Long-term data-backed changes boost customer satisfaction levels
Another beneficial data-driven long-term change to make in your business is increased levels of customer satisfaction. All entrepreneurs know how crucial it is to keep their customers happy and ensure they not only return but also tell other people how awesome the company is. This not only helps you build up a loyal customer base, but also creates a positive brand image over time.
Tools like Tableau and SPSS are really useful for this — as are the techniques to analyze data with them in general. But how can it help keep customers happy in the long term? One good example is looking into data on call pick-up times from your customer support agents to improve response times. Or you could dive into data on response time to other kinds of queries and ensure people are getting timely answers to questions. As these kinds of examples show, data analytics can really help you keep on top of customer service and drive up satisfaction levels in the long term.
A boost for marketing campaigns in the long term
One major long-term positive change you could make, backed by data, lies in marketing. This is a critical area for all companies and enables you to not only connect with consumers but also show them your brand story, what you do and why they should choose you. Analyzing data on previous marketing campaigns and customer details can throw up some really useful long-term changes to make in your company.
Drawing key insights from gathered data could, for example, show a new market who is interested in your products/services. It could also see you reviewing previous marketing campaigns to see what worked well about them and what did not. This is valuable information to use when running your next marketing campaign and can help it achieve a better ROI.
Data driven long-term change — new products or services
Perhaps the last long-term change that data can help make in your own business lies around the services/products you offer. Most businesses will focus on this as it helps them avoid becoming stagnant and allows them to attract/retain customers. Developing new products and services also helps you keep up with competitors and avoid being left behind.
But how can data analytics enable you to make positive long-term changes in this area? In simple terms, proper analysis of business data can show you which of your current products or services are popular — this then gives you an idea of which might be the best ones to focus on developing for the long term. Looking at data can also show you any common features in best-selling products to include in new ones or the sweet spot for fresh services or products in terms of price.
While the above sets out a raft of longer-term tweaks you could make to your business through data analysis, there are also some changes that could be made in the short term. But what might they be?
Short-term data-driven change — temporary staffing levels
One handy short-term change that data could suggest lies around staffing levels in your business. This is a crucial part of any organization, as having not only the right staff but also the right number of staff is vital. If you get this right, you not only have enough staff to hit peak productivity but also enough to keep customers happy.
But how can data help with staffing levels in the short term? It all comes down to the way it brings the latest information and figures to work from. For example, when diving into the latest company data, you may notice that the number of complaints made around your reception services are up in the last few weeks.
On further investigation, you could discover this is down to staff illness and that the issue can be solved by hiring temporary staff to help for a short period, until your permanent reception staff return. This is one illustration of how data can tell you lots about your business and any short-term changes you might need to make.
Short-term data driven changes — seasonality is key
The ability to find out about short-term changes that could be beneficial to your business is certainly something to focus on. This is because it enables you to make temporary changes based on unfolding situations, rather than letting these situations occur in a detrimental way. The collection and analysis of data can help a lot in this regard — with seasonality being a great example.
Seasonality simply refers to certain services or products you offer only being popular at certain times of the year. The most obvious example is a company who sells Christmas trees doing lots of business in December and none in summer. For many businesses though, it is not as obvious as that and data analytics can really help out as a result.
When looking into your business data, for example, you may see that a certain product line only tends to sell well during certain months or seasons. This could be something you were totally unaware of before! By using the insights like this, you can ensure you do not waste resources on products and services that will not sell in certain months. For the same reason, you can prioritize those that will.
Running short-term offers and promotions
Using data analysis in your own business can also help you jump on short-term trends and pick up on current demand from customers in an agile manner. A good example of this any company can use is running short-term bonus offers, if the data suggests this is worthwhile. This could be money off an existing product line which is not doing so well, in a bid to boost sales in the coming weeks. When the offer period ends, it should have hopefully given sales for the product a big push and seen it become more popular with consumers moving forward.
You may also use data-backed insights to run promotions in the short term when it comes to launching new products and services. For example, if you run a landscaping business and have recently started to offer a patio-fitting service, current data might show uptake has been slow. Or you might review data from the last new service you launched that showed a special offer on it at the time helped demand increase. This can then lead you to running a short-term promotion on your newest service to help it gain traction initially.
Why rely on data analytics, rather than your business acumen?
If you run your own business, you will naturally have a high level of business acumen and understand your own sector. This can make many entrepreneurs believe they do not need data or data analytics to make the right decisions moving forward. Instead, some business leaders still think they can rely solely on their own business knowledge to succeed. However, in the modern business world this is no longer true, and is a dangerous position to take.
But why is it important to rely on data, rather than only your gut instinct? The major reason is that collecting and then analyzing data gives you hard facts to work from. The data you collate is not guesswork or opinion but factual evidence that you can trust. As long as you analyze this data correctly, it also means the insights you draw from it to act on are reliable. This is much better than simply guessing what you think is happening in your business or trying to predict what to do next in isolation.
As a result of this, data analytics gives business owners a way of seeing exactly what is going on in their company and the reasons why. They can then take the necessary decisions to address any key issues or set out plans to drive the business forward in the short or long term.
Using data in business is also worthwhile because it is measurable. You can review data to see for sure the impact any changes have made and the extent to which they have worked. The success of bringing temporary staff into the sales team, for instance, is easily measurable when you dig into the sales figures in a week or two after they were hired.
Data-backed changes can be positive for your business
There seems to be little doubt that collecting and analyzing data in your business can help you make some positive short and long-term changes. These changes can be very powerful and enable you to drive organic growth in all parts of your organization.
Of course, it is crucial to have the right knowledge around data analytics in business to achieve this. Therefore, enrolling in a high-level academic course focused on analyzing data makes sense. With this kind of learning behind you, it is perfectly possible to use data and the stories it tells in your own business to superb effect.