What is data?  According to the Cambridge English dictionary definition, it’s information, especially facts or numbers, collected to be examined and considered and used to help decision-making. On that basis, any data you hold as a business should be useful and meaningful to your business. 

Find out how to make the most of your data by attending our mini-series of webinars here.

Lockdown has given many businesses an opportunity to gain data that they didn’t have before. Bakeries, for example, started selling online. Mr Brown, who used to come in every Friday morning for his bread, had it delivered, so the bakery now knows his email address, address and mobile phone number.  What can the bakery use it for to make it useful and meaningful to them? 

In addition to this new data, most businesses are hoarders. Think about how many pieces of data your business captures each day. Email addresses, phone numbers, website visits, orders, delivery details, social media analytics, internal email discussions – I am sure you can add a few to that list. Much of the data has a lifespan – at some point it becomes irrelevant, but how many of us still store it somewhere just in case? Think of the data that you hold in a similar way to the items you may have in your loft at home – how much of its contents should have been thrown out years ago? 

We are data rich but insight poor – but there are ways to turn it around. The ability to gather data across all our business engagements is both a fantastic opportunity as well as a huge challenge (and that’s before you consider GDPR). It is very easy to feel overwhelmed rather than empowered by the amount of information pouring in each day. 

It often feels easier to just leave it all as it is, which is the problem. The challenge, of course, snowballs the longer you have been in business, so many companies have data in silos: information for sales; database for production; incoming enquiries; HR; finance etc and often saved in different places, in different styles and mediums.  

In addition to internal data, do you gather external data – competitors, suppliers, partners or industry trends? You may have gathered it, but do you use it? 

There is an amazing opportunity for businesses, but first off you must make sense of it all.  Data identification, rationalisation, and consolidation can create a model that allows you to manage what you have, remove what you don’t need, and be more prepared for the ever-increasing data to come.  

Once your data is in order, you will be more efficient in your business processes and data management, so you won’t fall back into old habits. You will be able to get the data working for you – identifying key clients; reminding you of review dates, order schedules and delivery due dates; staff appraisals, holidays and anniversaries; managing lead contact schedules and sales pipelines. 

Everyone talks about big data but let’s instead focus on smart data – and how not to collect or hoard information you don’t need. Your company’s ability to compete will be increasingly driven by how well you understand, leverage, and manage data using new processes and technologies. And preparation is key as the data flood is only going to increase. 

You’ve got your Google analytics, mail chimp click-throughs, social media likes, shares and hashtags – heatmaps, comments, reviews and referrals. What are you doing with them?  Do you guess or assume what your customers think? If you have information on when and how they browse your website, it could help you to assess whether your new solution is viable.  If you have data, you can use it to make informed, useful, and meaningful decisions for your business – providing you can access the data and use it effectively. 

So start as you mean to go on and evaluate each data flow, what you gather, where you store it, and how you manage it. Storing data securely can cost money, storing it poorly risks non-compliance and security. Managing it properly provides huge opportunities and can provide cost-savings, improvements to production and organisation, as well as enabling increases in sales, marketing and therefore revenues and profit. 

There are a variety of tools to assist you when managing data - do you need a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, a Project Management Tool, an ERP (Enterprise resource planning) system? How do you avoid creating more silos, what is the best way to purchase these software solutions and which products are right for your business? How long will it take, and how much should you budget for? 

The main solutions and terminology for the data security and management landscape can seem confusing, but there is help and support available to demystify it all and ensure you understand what you need to do across each data set.  

Once your business data in order you will have the ability to focus on data that is useful for particular projects or targeted marketing.  Utilising your data can allow you to tell impactful stories which you can share with the project team or potential customers, for example. 

Filtering the data you have, selecting the pieces that have an impact and muting the rest so you don’t become overwhelmed by it, you will be able to identify such things as cost-savings; productivity gaps; outstanding payments and repeated absenteeism. It is so much harder to do this if you don’t have ‘clean’ data – so having removed a lot of your outdated and irrelevant data, don’t go back to old habits! 

There is a reason running a business is such an accurate description – you are always moving – but you need to stop, evaluate, reflect and look around regularly to remain relevant, evolve and grow. Effective data management and analysis assists you to do this more easily and move your business forward.  

If you struggle with the amount of data you hold, you are not alone. This is a common problem, and therefore Tech Swindon is delighted to be working with the Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub to deliver some valuable webinars as part of the Growth Hub’s This Way Up: Leadership, Digital, Finance webinar programme. We have enlisted industry experts to help guide you through this important investment into ‘future-proofing’ your business. 

Register for free here.

Across a mini-series of three webinars, we will lead you through how you can use your data, including how to rationalise any legacy data – even the paper records that lurk in corners!  Looking at a real-life project for an 80-year-old company with the goal of implementing a CRM, you’ll understand some of the pitfalls and the positive effects the process has had on the business. 

We’ll take a business perspective of your current data management solutions versus the costs and suitability of the most popular solutions of CRMs, ERP systems, project management tools, and other sales and marketing platforms. We’ll also provide suggestions for how to decide what is the right system for your company. 

We also know that data security, compliance and intelligence is important and, in some instances, critical, to running businesses. We will also cover how you back up data, what you should ask when working with a cloud storage supplier, and how to avoid collecting unnecessary personal data. 

Our aim is that by the end of the mini-series you will feel more confident about taking control of your data and making it useful, meaningful, and ensuring that it works for you.