Don’t Let Your Data Gather Dust — Make It Work for You

By Michael Benedict on October 19, 2016

hand holding a mobile tablet with blue screenIf you’re already collecting some data in your small business, you’re way ahead of your competition. Most small and medium businesses aren’t using big data, but they actually have the advantage of agility, making them perfectly suited to act on data-derived insights with speed and efficiency, notes Bernard Marr in Business Standard. Those that are doing so, however, are pulling ahead of the pack in profitability. Those companies are turning their data into actionable insights.

Tired of being behind the pack? Here’s how to get started.

Mobile Data Collection Leads to Insights 

Why it matters

Data from paper timecards, customer invoices, work/service orders, and more could simply continue to serve its purpose: pay an employee, bill a customer, or get updated on your field worker’s revenue and costs. Then that form’s data is filed away in a cabinet, never to be seen again. That’s how many small businesses are operating today. But if you collect that data on a mobile device, you can unlock its power to learn more about your employees and customers, and your business’s productivity.

It goes without saying that larger companies are doing this already. Historically, the tools needed to pull information from data were expensive and hard to use. According to a Mint Jutras report cited in Forbes, while about half of companies with revenue of $250 million or greater are using business analytics and predictive analytics tools, only one in five companies with revenue of up to $25 million are using business analytics, and only 9 percent are using predictive analytics (extracting information from existing data sets in order to determine patterns and predict future outcomes and trends).

But companies that do use data to make informed decisions about their business do far better than their peers. According to an Aberdeen Research study cited by the Wall Street Journal, the most successful small- and medium-sized businesses are using data to improve operations, and are seeing a 29 percent increase in profits. That’s seven times the industry average.

How it works

If you’re capturing data using mobile apps, you already have a wealth of data at your fingertips, ready to be accessed. You can combine that data with public data sets such as weather information to gain insights. For example, the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington, was able to combine historical attendance records with years of local climate data from the National Weather Service, which let administrators there predict within a hundred or so people how many visitors would show up on a given weekend. That data helped the zoo with more precise staffing.

Another great example: A property management company was able to cut costs 15 percent by comparing each contractor’s maintenance charges against the average of its 1,200 other vendors.

Another company making the most of its data is MOM Brands (formerly Malt-O-Meal). MOM has been using mobile apps to capture data since 2010. It outfits its in-store auditors with iPads to collect data at all the stores in which MOM Brands products are sold. These auditors track how each item’s brand standards are being upheld and whether products are placed where they are supposed to be. The auditors also ensure there is full compliance with distribution and retail standards.

MOM Brands now can pull all that data into monthly pivot table views at the click of a button, allowing its team to receive visual documents in real time. Users can reference historical data, segregate data, and even pre-populate form fields on their iPads before going out to a site visit at a retail partner location. MOM’s more than 100 users are saving countless hours, now that data that previously took days to analyze is accessible immediately; and the fact that data is transmitted directly from the field to Excel means fewer errors, and hours saved not doing data entry.

How to get started

Want to make more of the data your company is collecting? Here are a few tips from the pros to get you started:

  • Use a central location for data
    This means you save time getting it together. A recent study by Aberdeen found that the average business intelligence user references 30 data sources on a regular basis. A better way: Aggregate everything into a central hub, suggests SmallBizTrends.
  • Be focused
    Small businesses must be selective about what data they need and disregard the rest, says data-driven marketer Marina Elrukar in Entrepreneur magazine. If your goal is to acquire 100 new customers, collect data about your existing customers that could help you discover untapped markets. “By setting goals, a small business, which necessarily must be selective with how and where it allocates resources, will more efficiently move through its intended growth phases,” Elrukar said. “Objectives also ensure that measurement results are valuable and timely. They allow you to identify required data in advance.”
  • The key phrase is “anytime, anywhere”
    Data isn’t useful if you can’t get to it when you need it. This is where a cloud-based platform comes in handy, says SmallBizTrends. A cloud-based platform means that anyone with access can log in anywhere there’s internet, meaning the information they need is at their fingertips at just the right moment.

Learn how GoCanvas can help you effectively capture data using mobile apps and then use that data to deliver insights about your business. Want to do even more with the data you have? Learn how GoCanvas Business Insights can help.