How to realise data Value from data Usage

I was recently on a zoom panel at the World Jewellery Confederation* 2021 Congress – it was the final global open session, and the digital audience was truly global but down 60% on the open session average. Not that I took it personally you understand!

The topic Dealing with Data in the Digital world (sic) sadly doesn’t seem to rock many business owners’ boats – which in my mind is BONKERS as data can be gold dust if used correctly or just dust if ignored.

But I would say that, as I was baptised in the value of data whilst working at P&G in the FMCG sector and when at Williams Holdings in the SDA sector I was investing tens of thousands in GfK epos data, and I wasn’t on my own. Suppliers bought data, retailers bought data, analysts bought data, and they all used it to guide their decisions and grow their business, such was and still is the importance of data.

My time in these sectors taught me two key data lessons:

1. An opinion without data is just an opinion.

2. Whether it’s BIG data or small data, if you don’t use it – it’s just data.

As an SME, you may see purchasing data as an unnecessary expense or you don’t have the budget for data or you might be operating in a GfK data free sector, or you believe that data can’t make a positive difference to your business performance.

Yet there’s lots of free data out there, some is usable, some is informative, the majority just opinion but combined it provides food for thought and planning your business decisions over the next few years will require a lot of thought in the absence of a crystal ball.

A good starting point are trade magazines, trade associations, press articles, and reports published by your local Chamber of Commerce, or IoD branch; all of which can be sense checked with your internal colleagues or external networks.

If you’re too busy to spend time searching for external data, then start with your own internal data that focuses on your business pain points. Quick wins in these areas builds confidence and increases the appetite for using more data to drive business improvement activities. It doesn’t have to be complicated, so keep it simple to begin with and avoid over complicating the process. For example, managing millions of pounds of stock starts with 3 questions – the answers to which can improve your performance in stock turn, cash flow and buying process.

  • What % of your stock sells in the same year you put it into stock?
  • What % of your stock sells in the year after you put it into stock?
  • What % of your stock is three or more years old and growing a beard sitting in stock?

But it should not all be about time, and cost, there are also indirect benefits that come with data usage such as increased objectivity, accountability, appreciation, clarity, communication, teamwork, and problem solving – everything business leaders strive to instil in their people.

If you’ve never used data or have stopped using data, here’s a dozen snippets on collecting and using data, to help you improve the performance of your business.

  1. Just get started because the important thing about getting started is, just getting started.
  2. Do more with what you’ve got but remember Rubbish in means Rubbish out. 
  3. If you haven’t got a system that collects the data, you need to GET ONE.
  4. Use data that will quickly address your current pain points.
  5. Know what you want from the data and define it in terms of clear key performance indicators – start with a handful at first.
  6. Know how you want to manipulate the data, to be able to measure your KPIs.
  7. Avoid getting distracted by data discoveries unrelated to the task in hand.
  8. Do NOT use the data to support a preconceived idea. 
  9. Be assured it’s cheaper to fail on paper, which data enables you to do via modelling.
  10. If you are holding consumer data – protect it! It’s not just the big corporates under attack for example the recent Graff hack where a cyber gang stole a list of 11,000 high worth client details and posted some online with the threat of revealing more unless they paid a ransom. In preparation for the CIBJO panel, I contacted 3 local cyber security companies and asked for a ballpark quote for protecting a data base of 10,000 clients – the process seemed to be an initial audit / vulnerability check at a cost between £500 and £1,000, and an average £100 a month servicing cost subject to your system / requirements. The cost is not prohibitive – Though perhaps the question you should be asking yourself is, what’s the cost to the business of not securing your clients data?
  11. Benchmark your performance data with other businesses in your sector, as they say apples with apples. How else will you know if you are going a good job or a not so good job?
  12. And finally check your data regularly looking for trends, and patterns, and be prepared to react fast and appropriately. I once worked for a very energetic MD who taught me the two fingered data salute – run two fingers down columns of data reporting year on year performance and budget performance looking for double deficits … to be continued another day.

As in most things, the important thing about getting started is, just getting started. But be mindful other SMEs, potentially those competing with you, are already using data to reduce their risks, gain competitive market advantage, drive their growth, and improve their bottom line – So what’s stopping you doing the same thing?

*CIBJO was established in 1926 has members in over 40 countries and represents the entire jewellery industry from mine to marketplace. In 2006 it received official consultative status with ECOSOC of the United Nations.

Since 2013 I have been helping ambitious SMEs with their Strategic and Leadership challenges.

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Posted in Business Growth, Data, Decision Making, Increasing Profits, Key Performance Indicator, leadership, Planning
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