By Richard Bradbury, Alliances Director, SAS UK & Ireland
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) want to make the most of their data, but many feel they lack the skills and solutions to effectively harness it. However, new technologies and new channels to market are leading to the ‘democratisation of analytics’ making it easily available to all. SMBs cannot afford to get left behind but neither must they to go it alone.
1. You cannot afford to ignore data
According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, two-thirds of small UK businesses describe themselves as ambitious, yet a third admit that it’s getting harder to grow. That is why many are turning to data to help them act on that ambition and take advantage of the UK’s recovering economy. It is no longer enough to rely on instinct or gut feel – those that do risk being left behind by the competition. However, collecting, analysing, and extracting insights from data requires important skills, solutions and training. But it’s by no means an impossible task anymore; in fact, it can be straightforward.
2. The right technology is now available…and affordable
Businesses are increasingly demanding a predictive analytics capability rather than a simple business intelligence (BI) solution that reports historical information. Only a predictive component can provide the valuable insight needed by business leaders – in reality key business decisions are based on interpretation of future events.
It is now possible to acquire data visualisation technology that is easy-to use but has a built-in analytical capability too. It’s possible to carry out analysis on billions of rows of data and get answers in seconds or minutes, yet the cost is well within the reach of most SMBs.
Businesses still relying on legacy BI solutions to automate reporting requirements, are finding them increasingly ungainly, time-consuming and expensive to operate.
3. Lack of in-house expertise not a barrier
The latest data visualisation technology offers a means to view data via easy-to-interpret charts and graphs, so users do not need to be experts in statistics. But don’t be fooled by pretty graphics alone. It’s important the solution offers more than sophisticated reporting – you need the predictive analytical capability already mentioned to inform those key business decisions. This capability can sit within the software so business users rather than analytical experts can still get the answers they want from the data.
SMBs new to the field can also ‘dip their toes in the water’ by hiring in analytical expertise. Solutions provided as-a-service can be used to answer a specific business problem. These are also scalable, so that analytics can be used to support that particular area of the business (e.g. marketing) in its entirety. It could be extended further and deployed across all areas of the business.
4. Work with IT and any third parties to get the timing right
SMBs should bear in mind their existing infrastructure and any plans to overhaul the IT estate, so analytics can be incorporated at the same time. This should make implementation of the software more seamless and ensure work isn’t unnecessarily duplicated.
5. Trusted suppliers are a route to market
Leaders of SMBs and entrepreneurs bring a range of expertise from their varied backgrounds and disciplines, but many will not have worked extensively with data analytics before. It may seem a bit of a minefield to understand how they go about adopting more of a data or analytical culture. However, increasingly they can work with established and trusted suppliers of IT services who can advise and help them adopt the right analytics solutions. This can be achieved through access to software from vendors that these trusted suppliers have entered commercial partnerships with.