Here’s how data analytics can improve your business performance.

John Moore
On: 13 Feb 2020
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Data Analytics SMEs

Data is everywhere, and the opportunities to tap into it for real insight into business performance or customer behaviour have never been greater. In 2020, some SMEs or smaller corporates may feel left behind if they haven’t already started analysing data. But the barriers to adoption can be overcome; this blog looks at how to do this, while giving practical tips and advice on how to get started.

Let’s start breaking down some of those barriers. For some SMEs and domestic corporates, there’s a perception that they need a lot of resources to gather the data they need, and teams of data scientists to analyse it. But that doesn’t have to be the case; today, it’s possible to gather useful data just by combining information from separate internal systems to get a single view of customer activity. As for the analysis, there are user-friendly software tools that make it possible to turn this raw information into valuable insight.

Why dive into data?

A successful business needs to use data-driven insights to highlight areas where it can improve productivity or understand its customers. Using data effectively means delving deeper than the traditional metrics and uncovering trends that can drive real change to a business strategy.

The primary measures of a company’s performance are values such as customer base, sales figures, revenue, costs and margins. But to fully understand how a business is performing, you also need to know: who is buying your product, which customers are the most profitable, when and why you gain ­or lose customers, what makes them more or less loyal, what are the triggers that cause customers to buy more or leave, where are they buying from or what locations are they moving to or from to use the product.

Uncovering insight.

Data analytics leads to insights that enable businesses to optimise their resources and innovate in line with changing markets.  You can use data to improve the quality of your product or levels of service and identify opportunities for innovation that will set you apart from the competition.

Customer data combined with data from surveys, for example, can be a powerful way to determine what resonates with customers and what doesn’t. Think of how Netflix recommends movies or shows based on ‘what people like you’ like to watch. It can do this because it has lots of data about customer behaviour.

So, how do you become more data-driven? Here are five steps to help you on your way.

Narrow your search.

There’s so much data potentially available that to try and get insight from everything can feel like looking for a needle as the haystack keeps getting bigger. A good place to start is to think about the challenges that exist in your business today. Then, focus your efforts on understanding what type of data will help you improve as a business, and identify what type or kind of data you need.

For example, if customers are leaving too soon, you need to gather more data about what makes them leave. Avoid the temptation to gather too much information, because this will just make the analysis longer and more difficult.

Drilling into your data with the right tools.

If you are doing the analytics work in-house, using data that the business already has, you need to have a system that allows you to analyse that data. There are some well-known tools like Microsoft Power BI (part of the Office365 package), Tableau and Tableau Public (the free version), SAS, RapidMiner or Teradata that can help anyone see and understand their data.

Think of these tools like a spreadsheet on steroids, helping you to create visual guides like bar charts, pie charts, or interactive maps to make the information easily understandable to any audience.

Call a scientist – or not.

This is a little bit of a trick ‘tip’, since as hinted earlier, it’s become something of a myth that you need data scientists in the business if you want to do analytics. If you’re any way comfortable with technology, you can teach yourself how to use a tool like PowerBI or Tableau in a day.

That is not to dismiss data scientists, but their skills are highly sought after in today’s market, which makes them scarce and expensive for an SME to have as a dedicated resource on staff. That shouldn’t be an obstacle to getting started with analytics. If you choose to work with an outside partner that is providing data, they may also be able to help with providing data science services.

Get Data Prepared Right.

The data you need may already be in your business (e.g. from your own network of networks and IT systems, such as a CRM system). In this case, you need to talk to your Data Protection Officer (DPO) or legal advisors to ensure this new use of the data is compliant with your Data Protection obligations. You may, for example, need to obtain customer consent, or else to anonymise this data prior to use. Make sure your Privacy Notice and other T&Cs make customers aware of how this data will be used. You also need to work with your IT department or external IT provider about getting access to the data in a format that can be exported.

Like. Share. Follow.

So you’ve got the data, you’ve analysed it and you have some graphs showing insight into your customers behaviour or your business operations. Now, who do you need to talk to? Resist the urge to treat your findings as ‘eyes only’ for the CEO, board, or a particular business function. Don’t let the insight go to waste; present the data widely. Just because you think the data is suitable for one part of your business, in fact multiple groups will benefit from the information you share with them.

If the data you’ve analysed identifies reasons for customers leaving for example, then you should show that information to both your customer care team who can contact customers before they decide to stop engaging with your business and the marketing team, who can develop specific campaigns like offers or rewards to prevent customer churn.

If you’re interested in getting advice with your data requirements, Three has a Business Analytics service specifically designed to help SMEs. To find out more, email

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