Data analytics is the typically the domain of tech staff, and is practically swept under the rug by SME owners. However, taking the time to understand the data you are collating can yield big returns.
Speaking to My Business, chief executive officer of SMG Technologies Zane Hall said that SME owners can use data analytics to their advantage, but can’t simply brush things off to their IT staff.
What is data analytics?
According to SMG Technologies' website, data analytics is "the ability to understand how different behaviours ... transform information into actionable insights".
Many challenges stand in the way of properly understanding data, such as using predictive analysis rather than focusing solely on past data.
"You really can't get future decision-making based on previous data," Mr Hall said.
Other challenges to fully understanding data, as highlighted by the SMG Technologies website, include trying tackle too much data at once, strict time frames, a lack of resources to obtain or analyse data, and looking at one source of data at a time.
One way to combat these challenges, according to Mr Hall, is to use the cloud.
“Cloud computing has allowed us to process a whole lot of data … and it's allowing us to store, at different points, enough data,” he said.
“Even at the SME level, we can get a lot smarter with our businesses, and we can capture a lot more data, even from reference points within marketplaces or business segments.”
How can you get this information?
To collect the data needed to conduct a time series analysis, having an online presence is a necessity.
“[It] seems unusual that some SME companies still don't have websites, but ... it's probably the most cost-effective way of communicating in terms of marketing and advertising the company,” Mr Hall said.
“They're not leveraging other technologies which could reduce cost, but provide them better market segmentation, provide them better target audiences … or bring in a whole lot of other technologies to help them.”
While having an online presence is important, it’s just as important to have a firm understanding of how technological components actually help your business, rather than palming everything off to just one employee, according to Mr Hall.
In fact, this is just as important as owners “finding premises for their buildings or creating their brands”, he says.
“We're all overwhelmed by technology … we're all overwhelmed by having to buy the latest hardware and the latest software, and I think that's somewhat of a barrier of entry, because there seems to be quite a high value to start,” he said.
Why is this information useful?
Even though SMEs are usually in a position to rely on third-party professionals to establish and maintain technology, Mr Hall suggests SMEs don’t “invest enough time ... to truly understand” the tools they use.
“People go, 'I'll leave that to the expert', 'I'll leave that to our ICT guy' ... but I think that's a bit of a pain point, because if you invest more time and understanding what technology looks like, what market segment you're in, the behaviours of your consumer or your channel, I think you make better decisions before you make acquisition of such tools, whether it's a website development design, whether it's going to the cloud to acquire other services from someone like Amazon or Microsoft,” Mr Hall said.
“It's fair to say we should just invest more time into technology and understanding it and not passing it off [to] the expert to solve the problem, because they don't.
“[IT professionals] provide good advice, but you need to understand what you're buying, and you need to understand what your pathway looks like, and how technology will play a major part in influencing your revenue top line, and even your margin and your growth; whatever that means to each individual in terms of growth.”