Current Trends in Small Business Analytics

Analytics as a discipline is constantly evolving. Advances in technology allow what was once expensive and difficult to now be at the fingertips of any business user.  The goal of analytics is “to turn data into information, and information into insight.” -Carly Fiorina, Former CEO of HP

Fiorina, highlighted some of the key steps in analytics. Reporting turns raw data into information that can be consumed by a company, and through analysis you turn information into insights. Taking her comments one important step further, you need to turn insight into action if you want to progress down the path to value with analytics.

Analytics is constantly evolving, so staying current is paramount to success.

Staying current is all about being strategic in time management. I have to stay up to date on current trends in analytics as well as with new analytics applications and technologies. Besides just staying current for my own benefit, I share relevant updates with my colleagues, clients and followers.

Every few months I devote a day to discover what the current trends in analytics are. I do this both to refresh the slides in my presentation and to refresh my mind to see what I may have missed.

The amount of literature out there on analytics continues to blossom at an amazing rate, making it a true challenge to stay well versed on what’s hot and what’s not. I read a new analytics themed book about once a month and I have well over 200 blogs, web sites and social media groups cataloged. So I like to think I’m pretty well versed on what is current.

If I had to pick 5 current trends in small business analytics to talk about it would be:

(1) Picking a Good Business Intelligence Tool,

(2) Mining Public Unstructured Data,

(3) Mapping Your Business Data Environment,

(4) Centralizing Various Data Sources,

(5) Understanding Data Science and Big Data Analytics.

Every time I go to list the top 5 analytics trends, I find that some things change and some stay the same. Ever since I have been writing about analytics, data visualization is near the top. Business dashboards continue to be a big need. Business Intelligence (BI) tools evolve and new ones’ pop up, but Tableau continues to be a market leader.

Small Businesses who want to optimize the use of analytics need to start with finding a good BI tool to help them make sense of their business data. MS Excel is the most common option to get started with.

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Small Business Analytics – The field of small business analytics is just starting to blossom as companies are looking for more data-driven decision-making to prosper in the age of Big Data. DMAIPH is at the fore front of providing analytics training, consulting and outsourcing options to small businesses. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly to set up a free consultation on how to get more analytics in your small business.

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Things Data-Driven Cultures Do

Data-Driven Cultures Do These Things:

  1. They embrace Big Data. They aren’t afraid of it. They relish the addition of new data sources and actively look for more.
  2. Managers use Evidence-Based Management techniques. Just about every choice comes based on data analysis.
  3. Challenges are addressed with Data. When something happens that was unexpected, the challenge is met with a data centric approach.
  4. The right data is being used. A lot of work goes into validating data and keeping it clean and fresh. The concept of having a data lake that supports multiple parts of the business is in place.
  5. The have the right analytics talent. Analysts are empowered to go out and discover not just current challenges, but look for potential ones as well.
  6. The know how to communicate. The sharing of information is done to benefit everyone. You won’t see lots of data trapped in silos. Data has no one true owner.
  7. They take action based on their data and analysis. You don’t see a lot of useless reports that kills a small forest or clog up an inbox with massive files. They keep it smart and simple.

Like most of the blog posts in this series, I took inspiration from Bernard Marr when I came up with this list, adding my own analytics spin.

Data-Driven cultures are a lot harder to find then they should be. In this day and age, every company should have a strategy on how to use data to drive more intelligent decisions, but they don’t .

Success eludes many companies because they don’t have the 7 qualities listed above in place. If you were to ask what they look like it would be something akin to this:

  • Top management is afraid of data. Senior leaders don’t even know how to use MS Excel. There is no analytics champion in the organization to spearhead data projects.
  • Decisions are made based on what worked in the past, relying on experience and gut feel. There is little evidence used to go in any certain direction.
  • When things don’t work out, data and analysts take the blame. You will hear a lot of “why didn’t you tell me” and “I didn’t see it coming” excuses.
  • What data is being used is old, dirty, incomplete, full of errors and doesn’t tell the whole story. Reports are basically useless and just produced to look at what people generally already know. They look for what’s there, oblivious to what’s not.
  • They don’t not share data. They hoard it. They don’t trust anyone else with access to it. The data is stored in unconnected storage places. There is no common understanding how to use data.
  • They fail a lot. Success generally happens by hard work as much as luck. It’s impossible to know for sure what caused what to happen.

It’s not easy to take a company that has little or no data-driven decision-making and turn it into an Intelligent Company, but it can be done. I have done it. I have guided transitions from the stone age to the information age. Let me show you how.

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The Philippines is at the center of the action when it comes to solutions to the global need for analytics. Blessed with a solid foundation of young, educated and English speaking workforce, companies around the world are look for Filipino analytics talent to fill analytics positions.

DMAIPH specializes in arming the Data-Driven Leader with the tools and techniques they need to build and empower an analytics centric organization. Analytics leadership requires a mastery of not just analytics skill, but also of nurturing an analytics culture. We have guided thousands of Filipino professionals to become better analytics leaders. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly to discuss a uniquely tailored strategy to ensure you are the top of your game when it comes to Analytics Leadership.

When Your KPIs Aren’t Really KPIs

One question I get asked a lot is what should someone do when they know the data they are reporting and/or using in their analysis is not the best data to available?

No matter what part of the business you work in, the first thing to do is to define the current Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) being used in decision-making.  Often right off the bat, some of the KPIs being reported aren’t even being used.

You can do a simple survey, asking end users to rank in order of importance the KPIs they get. Also ask if the ones at the bottom are even useful or should they be eliminated if no one is using them.

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At the same time you should be working on understanding what computations go into each KPI. Often we just do simple counts, total and averages that mask more important data. On the flip side, we tend to over complicate things with extravagant weighing and scoring. Either way, we need to make sure we know exactly what is being reported and how does the final data point come to its end state.

The next step is to look at the data architecture to make sure there is nothing happening upstream that might impact the data we are using in the KPIs. Before making changes to the KPIs we want to have the full view of what happens before the data gets to the end user.

Now we are at the point where we can start experimenting. What happens when we swap out data points? Or if we change a variable in a calculation? Or we pull the data from a different source? The questions are endless. Pick a few, make some changes in a test environment and start sharing the updated KPI data. See if it has more value with the end users.

Again, this shouldn’t be hard. But of course in many organizations a lot of consequences can result from a simple change to just one KPI. Spreadsheets may have to be reformatted, review processes may have to be updated, dashboards may have to be redesigned. But in the end, what is more important… making decisions with crappy data or setting a standard to let the reporting process evolve as the business evolves?

This come back to my point earlier, changing KPIs is as much sales as it is analysis… that you have to be ready to share a story, back it up with data, and really influence the minds of senior management that updating the KPIs makes good business sense.

If you are at a point where you are trying to figure out what KPIs aren’t working anymore or you need help is building a business case to change some KPIs, let me know. I’m here to help.

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General Analytics – Analytics is the application of using data and analysis to discover patterns in data. DMAIPH specializes in empowering and enabling leaders, managers, professionals and students with a mastery of analytics fundamentals. To this end we have parterned with Ariva Events Management/Ariva Academy to offer a wide range of analytics themed trainings across the Philippines. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly to find out what we can do to help you acquire the analytics mastery you and your organization need to be successful in today’s data-driven global marketplace.

Conversation About the Reporting Mess

The other day I was hanging out with some friends who work for a company I used to work for and they were talking about challenges they were having with some reports. As I listened, images started filling my mind of the challenges so many companies face. Not having a good data strategy within a business is a killer to both productivity and morale, opens up a company to extra risk and blinds people to opportunities.

The first problem I suggested they tackle is validating their current Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). They need to analyze what is currently being reported to find out what is not useful to the business in making educated decisions.

The second problem is that the people who “own” the data don’t like sharing.  The place where I’d start with this challenges is mapping out the data flow. It would be really powerful to illustrate the different touch points within the flow and most importantly where things get stuck. Then it’s a matter of explaining the big picture to those who might be causing slowdowns.

The third problem is that everyone is too busy to sit down and figure out how to fix things. To solve this challenge, we will need to get everyone on the same page and agree to a common data strategy. This will not be a one and done meeting, but a series of conversations.

So to solve this, my friends need to start with asking questions about what do people really need. In many cases I would expect the answer is no. This is where knowing the architecture comes in handy, so you know where the data lives that is currently missing. After this it’s a matter of storytelling and influencing the “owners” of the data to understand how access to key data would generate more powerful KPIs which would allow everyone to get on the same page.

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It sounds pretty easy and it should be. The ultimate challenge is really getting people to all agree on how to use the data. In some cases, it might take senior management support to get everyone to play nice. And my friends will need data to support their argument on how thing can be better and put some numbers behind their vision of a stronger data-driven culture.

This is where I come in. When inside politics and no one has time to lead the charge, an outside consultant might be the best solution. An expert in not just identifying the challenges and sharing findings, but someone who can actually help facilitate cultural change. People who are equally skilled in both the technical world of analytics and the social world of team building are pretty rare birds.

If you are in a situation like my friends, then I’m ready to help you like I helped them.

Analytics Consulting – DMAIPH specializes in a variety of analytics consulting solutions designed to empower analysts, managers and leaders with the tools needed for more data-driven decision-making. We have helped dozens of companies get more analytics in their business. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly so we can tailor an analytics solution made just for your unique requirements.

Q15: What is a business dashboard and how is it used in a business?

Much like a driver uses a car’s dashboard to make lots of decisions before and during a trip, a business dashboard helps a business decision-maker to plan for his business.

Wikipedia’s definition of a business dashboard is quite long. A business dashboard is  “An easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status (snapshot) and historical trends of an organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.”

That is a mouthful. But lets break it down to help us understand how a business can use dashboards to make better decisions.

  • Single Page – You need to be able to see everything you need to know at a glance. If you need to scroll or click to get data it really lessens that power of the dashboard.
  • Real Time – If the data isn’t current, then you really are limited to being able to take action. With technology today, not having a way to feed real time data in your dashboard is pretty old school. Plus this can help you set up some useful predictive models that feed into the dashboard.
  • Graphical Presentation – People pick up data much quicker from visual queues like charts and graphs then they do a table full of numbers. There are a lot of great visualization tools out there to add a lot of both style and substance to analyzing business data.
  • Current Status – Besides being furnished with real time data, you should be able to look at where things stand right now. Like how a speedometer keeps you within the speed limit, real time status can help you know where to focus your energy most.
  • Historical Trends – The priority is real time, current status all in one view. That said, having the ability to switch to historical trends is also something to look for in an awesome dashboard.
  • KPIs – One of the keys to getting the most bang for your buck with a dashboard is to make sure you are feeding the right KPIs into it. The audience will gravitate to what is most important to them and if its not available at first glance they wont use the dashboard. So knowing the business well enough to know the key KPIs for the power users is super important.
  • Make Decisions – The bottom line is that if a dashboard improves the speed and the accuracy in which decisions are made then its working. Companies with really good analytics cultures use dashboards at staff meetings and conference calls and have pretty much killed the use of power point for most discussions.

When you walk into a company and you see business dashboards on the wall monitor and/or on desktops you are in the kind of place we should all be. The technology is there, its more a matter of culture to make it useful.

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Hope that helps shed some light on how business dashboards can help a business. They just give you much more relevant and useful data summarized and offered in easy to use and understand bites.

My team is very adept at setting up business dashboards using Tableau Public. Let me know if you’d like to know more.

Five Tips To Make A Great Dashboard > DMAI Analysts Master These Skills

A business dashboard allows decision-makers to better manage their business, and thus improve sales and profits. Here are five tips to make a successful business dashboard:

1) Personalize. Tailor your dashboard to the role of the user, designing it around metrics specific to the individual. Accommodate your users no matter where they are located.

2) Self-sufficient. Dashboards should guide business users to relevant insight without help from IT. Dashboards should be intuitive and provide simple access to business data using menu filters and drill-down functions. Also, users should have access to FAQs, help ­files, how-to videos, and an online user community so they can feel con­fident when using their dashboard.

3) Interactive. Dashboards are not a static experience. Users should be able to apply filters and adjust values on a chart, for example, to plan for various scenarios. They should also be able to write-back to the data source if permitted. Drill-down capabilities are particularly useful because users can delve into charts to get further details with just one click. Interactive dashboards keep users engaged and focused.

4) Dynamic. Static dashboards rely on historical data, neglect your organization’s present performance and set you up for failure, warns Forrester Research. Successful dashboards are dynamic and reflect the real-time changes of your business’ performance. They also offer ad-hoc capability so users can manipulate variables for further analysis and drill-down functionality so users can find root causes.

5) Accessible. Dashboards should be accessible from any device so users can view their data anywhere, anytime. Mobile dashboards are easy to deploy if your BI system supports web apps, which can be developed once and deployed anywhere – on any PC, smartphone, or tablets.

The bottom line is that dashboards should be analytical tools, not just pretty pictures. The ultimate measure of dashboard success is adoption. When users come to see their dashboards as indispensable, you know you’ve done well as a dashboard designer.

DMAI specializes in designing business dashboards, training staff to use them effectively and in providing staff who can build, manage and enhance business dashboards

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Five Uses For Business Dashboards > DMAI Can Build You One Or Provide You Support To Build Your Own

Research from Aberdeen Group shows the average company that uses business dashboards enjoys triple the revenue growth and double the profit growth of companies that don’t.

Why?

Because with the right dashboard:

  • Businesses make more intelligent business decisions
  • Managers have complete, real-time visibility into their organization
  • Leaders manage their business more effectively

5 Key Benefits of Business Dashboards

Business Dashboard gives business executives numerous benefits including the following:

  1. Visibility: An executive dashboard provides great visibility and insight. Decision-makers know exactly what’s going on in all aspects of their business, allowing to see connections and correlations.
  2. Continuous Improvement: One of Peter Drucker’s most famous quotes is, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Dashboards allow leaders to measure performance throughout their organization and thus improve it.
  3. Time Savings: Many executives spend countless hours logging into business systems and running reports. Conversely, the right dashboard always shows managers the latest results from each report they need. This saves precious hours each month.
  4. Plan vs. Performance: Many executive spend time creating a business plan for their organization to follow. However, that’s just the first piece to success. The second is making sure their company is performing to the plan’s expectations. Dashboards can automatically show progress towards goals from the business plan versus actual, real-time results.
  5. Employee Performance: When employees know their performance is being judged in a dashboard, and can see their results, they innately start to improve their work.

DMAI specializes in designing business dashboards, training staff to use them effectively and in providing staff who can build, manage and enhance business dashboards

3.8.2.

Time Consuming Tasks, Your Small Business Should Outsource

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners reject outsourcing because of the perceived extra cost.

However, they fail to calculate the value of opportunities lost because they sank too much time into energy-sapping tasks best left to others.

DMAIPH has a team of top talent that can take on several of the things you are doing that eat up way to much of your precious time.

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We specialize in:

  • Graphics Design
  • Social Media
  • Market Research
  • Competitor Intelligence
  • Customer Feedback
  • Data Mining
  • Basic Analytics
  • Administrative Support

We can also build you a business dashboard using the free and easy to use Tableau Public (www.tableaupublic.com) business intelligence tool. Our team of analysts will also show you how to use Tableau Public to make more data-driven decisions in your business.

Contact us today for a free consultation. DMAIPH has been providing outsourcing solutions to U.S. based small and medium sized business for over 5 years.  Our offices in the Philippines are set up with state of the art technology and staffed with top local talent.

Analytics Outsourcing – DMAIPH has successful set up Filipino analytics teams for over a dozen U.S. based businesses. Offering both virtual and office based teams that specialize in problem solving using data, new technology and analytics techniques is our strength. Finding and empowering analytics talent is increasingly challenging, but we have it down to a science. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly to learn more about how to set up an analytics-centric team in the Philippines.

Building Business Dashboards > One Of My Favorite Things To Do

Per Wikipedia, a business dashboard is “an easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status (snapshot) and historical trends of an organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.”

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Whenever I talk to an audience about business dashboards, I always start out with this mouth full of an explanation. Because thats what dashboards do… they take a lot of complicated data and break it down into a few powerful visuals that provide insightful and actionable intelligence. Actionable being the key term.

My favorite dashboard builder is Tableau, and I instruct all my trainees to use Tableau Public (it’s free) to get some hands on experience in building dashboards. Qlikview is also pretty cool at building user friendly boards. There are several others that have free or trial versions. Gartner does and annual review of BI tools with a special focus on the ones who best provide an easy to use dashboard builder. Below is a sample dashboard.

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“Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice. ” – Stephen Few, the grandfather of Business Dashboards.

Five Trends I Shared With A Class Of Future Analysts

Just wanted to share my perspective on what I see as being five trends that future analysts here in the Philippines can jump on to help them get ahead of the competition as they look for their first job.

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1. Finding Unstructured Data on the Internet
Most Data is Unstructured, meaning it’s not easily accessible and stored in an internal database. This goes against the conventional approach to analytics where you write a query to pull data from a big data warehouse and dump it into an analytics tool. For most analysts, trying to find unstructured data and then capture it and use it in decision-making is not easy.

2. Self Service Business Intelligence Tools
Business intelligence (BI) refers to computer-based techniques used in identifying, extracting, and analyzing business data, such as sales revenue, market opportunity or product performance. Self-service ones are easy to learn, sit on a desktop and have more power to do great analytics then a team of 10 IT Engineers did 5 years ago. My favorite BI tool is Tableau. Check it our at http://www.tableausoftware.com

3. Competitor Intelligence
Per Wikipedia, competitive intelligence is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.Every successful business conducts competitor intelligence and uses this process in various ways. Some examples for a fast food chain might include:
> Pricing
> Product and Service Offerings
> Targeted Demographic Marketing
> Marketing Promotions
> Location Renovations and Expansions

4. Data Visualization
The main goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A good pie chart is worth 10,000 rows of data stored in a database. I often say what separates a good analyst form a great analysts, is the ability to easily communicate their findings in a way that makes it easy to exercise good decision-making.

5. Business Dashboards
Wikipedia’s definition of a business dashboard: “An easy to read, often single page, real-time user interface, showing a graphical presentation of the current status (snapshot) and historical trends of an organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enable instantaneous and informed decisions to be made at a glance.” That’s a mouthful, but if you are able to deliver all of these items in a single view, you are worth your weight in gold to an analytics savvy organization.

To learn more about analytics, DMAI and careers as an analyst in the Philippines, follow this blog and you will keep yourself on the cutting edge of all things analytics!