How small businesses can unlock insights from their data without breaking the bank

The common rhetoric is that data is the new oil, that data has this edge, and indeed it is a foundational capability of many organizations. You just need to look at companies like Domino’s Pizza, who describe themselves as a tech company that sells pizza to see some of the power of this.

Not every company is in this position however, but many are closer than they think, and with the accessibility of computing infrastructure today, it may surprise you how small an investment it can take to give a view of everything that is going on.

For a small-mid size business, where bringing on a single person has major financial repercussions — to spend that $70–100k on a individual, whether it is a business development person, administrative, or technical — is an investment that is meant to have predictable benefits or at least a direct correlation to costs.

This was supposed to be about data right ? Let’s get to it.

The proposition

The basic assumption is that when you have a view of everything that happens in your organization, you can fit the pieces together. The business can keep running without this, for sure, but when you acknowledge that a business is a series of interrelated components — it only makes sense.

Add to this that the tools that we use are completely different compared to say, 5 or 10 years ago. We use services like QuickBooks and Wave for accounting, Gsuite and it’s interrelated components to serve as the backbone, we take payments with tools like Stripe and use a myriad of databases and 3rd party tools for connecting to data sources, and leveraging external information.

Specifically in the case of companies building software platforms, this is on top of their own proprietary platform and its own systems and processes of interconnected services.

Inherent in all of this is that data and analytics are really a part of every facet of a modern organization, and ignoring it’s potential comes at its own peril.

This is awesome — it’s why we can build like there is no tomorrow, and be so efficient with a smaller set of resources.

But administration can be difficult, we rely on others to give us information, or we pull reports from these interrelated systems. What’s the balance of X account, what are an individual KPIs, different platform metrics, sales metrics etc.

Different parts of the organization use different tools, for example a Business Development person lives in their loop of Gsuite, Salesforce or Hubspot/other automation tools, with maybe Slack for ongoing communication — or something similar. Times that by all the different departments and you get a mountain of information — wouldn't it be great if each department could be summarized in some way?

As an executive — don’t you want something like this ? The elusive command center ?

The Edmonton government dashboard that aggregates complaints across its assets

But I get it, you make simple dashboards today, you have the reporting from each system — what’s the point ?

Aggregation, aggregation, aggregation

Have to log in to see your data in multiple platforms?

Well, the point is that by bringing the different components together you can make better decisions, and empower others, and it’s actually only the first step of the data journey.

It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either — It’s not always feasible to hire that $75,000 data analyst, let alone allocate development resources to tie the data together.

The truth is ,this can become predictable over time. The goal is to create and maintain a system to ingest data (both primary and 3rd party) and develop methods to first visualize and empower stakeholders, and then to really drive new insights and experiments that can optimize the business.

We see this process comprised of the following components.

Data

  • Link data from across companies sources (e.g tools, platform, manual sources) into a single source of truth
  • Automate some data collection processes
  • Understand company goals, create effective and measurable KPI’s
  • Advise on system and tooling enhancements if necessary

Analytics

  • Company wide and department specific dashboards for executives and staff
  • Automation of reports and self serve company data for employees
  • Identify and set up automatic extraction of external data (industry, competition, economic, social etc) that can augment your internal data

Insights

  • Now that the machine is running, we work to help identify anomalies, trends and opportunities for growth and optimization

Decisions

  • Track outcomes and continue to enhance the use of data for decision making

Performance

  • Monitor results of decisions and the ROI on your data infrastructure and continue to experiment and/or optimize

You can do this all yourself, but you don’t have to.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store