Published on:

31 March 2022


Rachael Adams

How Your Business Can Use Data to Inform Management Decisions

Before the world had even heard of COVID-19, before our daily discussions about case numbers and a ‘new normal’, the world was already experiencing rapid change of another kind. Technology, both in our professional and personal lives, was altering the way we live. Driven by data, businesses gained a new understanding of themselves and their customers. Interpreting and harnessing that data is key to making better, faster decisions to keep up with the pace of change. 

Over the last few decades, organisations have created data for almost every action. This data was stored and, in an ideal world, backed up effectively. Some was painstakingly, and largely manually, searched for clues that would improve efficiency, boost sales, or cut costs, but most was consigned to storage, never to be retrieved. Yet the data your business creates holds a wealth of insights into your operations and your customers – and tapping into this resource is increasingly necessary for surviving through such challenging times.

Real World Data-Driven Projects

Around the world, organisations are finding innovative ways to use data to work smarter. In Tasmania, one council is using sensors to track when bins are full, when a fire occurs, and even if something is making them smell revolting. Why? Council workers no longer need to check every bin daily, which saves on their time and cost. Tourists are not driven away from attractions by smelly rubbish, meaning they stay longer and spend more, while a carelessly discarded cigarette is less likely to cause a major fire.

Of course, the way you employ data depends on your own business. At TechPath, we monitor customer feedback that we gather. This helped us to identify when one product was causing a poor customer experience and impacting profitability. Whether you want to reduce overheads or improve customer service, your data is your secret weapon.  

Availability and Security of Data

Much of your success with data projects hinges on getting the right information to the right people at the right time, and in the right format. For most people, raw data has little meaning, but presented in charts, graphs, or other visual methods, it is transformed. While the cost of in-house data specialists is beyond all but the larger organisations, there are now secure, affordable ways to automate much of the process, and produce interactive, self-serve data resources.

Who Uses Data?

The ways you use and interact with your data are only limited by your imagination. In an online retailer, the priority may be to identify exactly where and why users do not complete a purchase, so they can pinpoint the right offer to retain a higher proportion of visitors. A sales team might better identify customer spending trends, and predict the exact right moment to target each customer. We’ve seen it used to retain staff, save inventory costs, and analyse results by teams and individuals. The more you use data, the better you become at identifying opportunities, so while it can certainly pay to invest in some expertise to get you started, you can build on that momentum.

Types of Data

Some decisions are far too important for guesswork or hunches, so timely data can save a lot of expensive mistakes. That means not wasting hours on Excel spreadsheets when there is an automated alternative that can have an essential report in your inbox when you arrive at the office on Monday morning.

Good data tools will have a dashboard that allows you to choose data by time period, geography, or a number of other options, and easily build it into visual output such as colour coded graphs and charts. You should have control of who can access which data. 

Microsoft 365 Data Tools

Almost all organisations already have Microsoft 365, which means they are already paying for some sophisticated data tools in their existing licence. They can be surprisingly easy to use, but are often overlooked.

The jewel in the data crown is undoubtedly Power BI, which can take various data resources and turn them into easily understood, colour coded charts, so that in seconds, you can spot trends or anomalies. If you’re a reasonably skilled user of the rest of the Microsoft 365 suite, spending some time dabbling with the app can produce very useful results. That said, if you are time poor, working with multiple, complex datasets, or want to get more than basic results, a little time with an expert will quickly pay for itself.

SharePoint also plays a handy role as a place where data can be published and shared with relevant staff. It gives you a level of control over who views which data, and it is good to plan this carefully, especially where data is sensitive or has a high value. Clearly, individual performance data is not something you want to be shared company wide.

As more people spend time collaborating via Microsoft Teams, it may help to know that the app includes a tool that can place Power BI graphs and charts directly into Teams. Having everything available and visible in one place is a productive way to work.

Finally, while not automatable, Excel still has its place in some situations. As a last resort, it can be used to crunch some numbers, or to familiarise yourself with the data you have available. The data can then be fed from Excel into Power BI to make it more interactive and accessible.

Next time you’re making an important business decision, you can reduce risk and improve results by knowing the right data is available at your fingertips. To learn more about working with your data resources to raise efficiency, reduce costs, or improve service, chat with TechPath’s friendly data experts today.