There's an opportunity to use data to improve businesses of all sizes.
Analytics tools are commonplace in today’s digital economy, but many organizations don’t fully utilize them. SMBs are particularly bad offenders due to a lack of in-house expertise, nascent or non-existent processes, or misunderstanding of the tools’ purposes.
If you’re an SMB exec, there’s good news: with just a few steps, SMBs can leverage business analytics much more effectively. These steps will open up a whole new world of insight into your organization and help you take it to the next level.
Open your boundaries
It’s very easy to use these tools to analyze one part of your business, such as your marketing output or accounting package. However, pigeonholing your analytics tools means you’re not using them efficiently. Open your boundaries and be willing to use your analytics across the organization, not just in silos. For example, analytics can co-relate your accounting package, CRM, and execution system, thus allowing you to achieve much deeper insights about your entire organization’s operations.
Hire and maintain the right skillset
As an SMB, your people are experts in your chosen business, but IT is not necessarily a core competency of that business. When an SMB hires someone to manage their IT, there may not be a clear career path within the firm for that person. For this reason, it’s very difficult to hire and sustain a position that's nonadjacent to your core business.
If you want to use analytics more effectively—and you should—you must hire the specific skill sets needed and lay out a clear career path for those hires. Don’t assume employees who might be good with a spreadsheet or numbers are going to be your data scientists—sure, they could wind up having a talent for analyzing your data, but don’t rely on that. Hire for the role(s), bring in the talent that you need, and make sure that you have the career path to keep them.
Presently, many SMBs are using their analytics in a somewhat ad hoc fashion. This will not serve your organization and means you are losing key benefits from your analytics. We often see organizations spending money on highly sophisticated dashboards that nobody looks at. In these instances, there is no process in place to define the bigger picture for the organization, and the business is utilizing metrics that people don’t understand. Strategically speaking, the organization’s team members cannot really see the “forest through the trees.”
By defining the big picture and the metrics you want to measure, you’ll build out processes to help utilize your data more effectively, and you’ll ensure these metrics apply to your business. First, settle on the metrics that are impactful to your business. Then, build processes that will enable the relevant people to know what those metrics are and how people can use the data to measure them.
In order to use data effectively, it’s imperative that an SMB ensures relevant staff are trained to utilize dashboards, reports, and related visual technologies. Make sure you have an effective training plan in your rollout that covers the consumers of the dashboard and the analytics. This way, everyone will understand what's being measured and how to drill down and do their own digesting of the data.
Just showing relevant staff a pie chart without training them to identify the areas that are having problems or successes is not an effective use of your data. SMBs must provide training on understanding, using, digesting, and analyzing metrics. The democratization of the metrics, what data comprises the metrics, and when they apply assist in organizational acceptance in following the metrics.
An excellent starting point for analyzing your data more effectively is to collaborate with an outsourced provider. Collaborating with a third party will allow an expert to show you where you are falling short in data analysis and how you can bridge that gap. That expert can also help you build the in-house processes you need to ensure staff are analyzing data to its fullest effect. Furthermore, they can assist with designing trainings for relevant team members. This is also an excellent way to understand what skill set you should bring in when the time is right and you’re ready to hire a data scientist or similar.