Photograph of a woman and a man reviewing data together on a Surface

You spend a lot of time thinking about your people and the applications you need to operate your business. But what about your data? How much of your attention does it get? This post explores how decision-makers at small and medium-sized organizations can think data-first when making important business decisions.

The unsung asset

Data. It’s the asset that most companies take for granted, given how much is created worldwide. Every day, people generate massive amounts of data from phones, credit card transactions, bank machines, internet use, and cars. Some of that data is structured (or organized and usable). Some is not.

Your data landscape includes more than the files your team creates and shares. What about the devices, networks, and systems you also use?

Huge value

Make no mistake: that data has value—more than you might assume. Criminals will go after your customer database or your identity as quickly as they can steal your laptop or phone. That’s why we talked about the importance of protecting that data in our Business Self-Defense campaign. Now let’s explore the many benefits data creates.

From using business intelligence tools to building a better sales pipeline, discover five best practices of data-driven organizations.

5 ways to fall in love with data

  1. Get customer-obsessed
  2. Cut down on the politics
  3. Sharpen your marketing
  4. Predict the future
  5. Mind your money
  1. Get customer-obsessed

In the same way as you might measure sales, you can collect and analyze data relating to your customer experience to improve it. For instance, companies can apply call centre information to design better self-serve content for their websites. They can add blog posts, tips, videos, and other content based on the very topics that customers call about most often.

Similarly, companies now use data to make their products and services better for their customers. For example, manufacturers can use the cloud, artificial intelligence, and smart sensors to create intelligent systems that collect otherwise stranded operational data to find efficiencies and enable continuous improvement.

  1. Cut down on the politics

Do you have an effective system in place to measure performance? To cut down on the complaints about politics, try keeping track of your human resources in real-time. Use your data to track everything from changes in the recruiting pipeline to employee turnover. An open and transparent performance system helps create a sense of fairness as employees better understand the expectations from the leaders of the organization and the performance objectives they need to reach.

Want to give your sales people a better shot at success? Start by creating greater transparency into your performance across segments, resources, campaigns, and time periods. Use a platform that gives you a single, holistic sales view in real time.

  1. Sharpen your marketing

Between your websites, events, social networking, webinars, drip campaigns, and search advertising, it’s hard to measure how your marketing is doing. Fortunately, you can use business apps, like Dynamics 365, to view all your analytics in one place. In fact, you can also use Dynamics 365 to track customer sentiment and monitor customer reaction to your advertising on social networks.

You can make your email better with data, too. Even in the era of CASL compliance in Canada, too many small businesses do “email blasts” and hope for the best. Get strategic. Give your marketers out-of-the-box reports to measure, track, compare, and report on your email marketing campaigns.

  1. Predict the future

Had enough of unrealistic pipelines and poor predictions? Modern data tools can help you make informed decisions more quickly by reporting on your sales pipeline in real-time and allowing you to drill down to individual locations for all the details.

The days of waiting weeks for reports are over. You can get answers fast with on-demand and off-the-shelf dashboards that shed light on your business. With modern data analysis, you can mashup data to identify variances and run forecasts.

  1. Mind your money

Tired of sifting through endless reports or relying singularly on your accountant’s or bookkeeper’s advice? You can use business intelligence tools to get a full, up-to-the-second, reliable view of your financial performance—from summary statements to account-level details.

Best of all, get them in real-time. See how your profit margins track by keeping a close eye on the expenses incurred, as they happen. Detect expense outliers and anomalies early. Analyze trends and patterns to flag potential fraud and abuse. Instead of solving problems after the fact, data can help you get ahead of the curve.

Master the new language of business

Did you know that 62% of digitally advanced companies surveyed are more likely to have enjoyed high sales growth in the past three years?1

Learn how quickly technology enables businesses across Canada to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively when they adopt modern business solutions.

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Download “Speaking business today,” a free new Microsoft ebook exploring how emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), and edge computing transforms the playing field in Canada and the world. Link here.