The creation of data continues to explode at an exponential rate, but what matters most is what companies do with that information. Organisations like Discovery Health, Google, Amazon and Netflix mine their data to discover and extract hidden and valuable insights and knowledge about their customers, that they then turn into actions to improve revenue, profitability and innovation.
Among the most powerful examples of what can be achieved with information, isIsrael’s rapid rollout of vaccinations for COVID-19. By the end of 2020, Israel, with a population of 9.3 million, had administered more vaccine doses than all other countries, aside from China, the US, and the UK. This was largely due to a well-developed infrastructure for implementing prompt responses – based on information and the supporting IT and logistical capacities – to large-scale national emergencies.
Israel’s experience gave the rest of the world real, useable information and helped establish “best practices” to address failures quickly and to modify and adjust vaccination strategies during a period when there was no time for drawn-out, long-term clinical trials. More recently, the country is developing a vaccine that could potentially address COVID better than other technologies.
In the era of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation, there is no better time for small and medium businesses (SMBs) to become data-driven. That means information is prized, and strategic decisions are based on information analysis and interpretation. A data-driven approach enables every business to examine and organise their data with the goal of better serving their customers.
Companies are implementing machine learning and artificial intelligence to develop a more comprehensive analytics strategy that will enhance their ability to achieve business goals. They are delving deeper into their data to increase efficiency, gain a greater competitive advantage, and boost their bottom lines even further.
In the SMB environment, savvy CEOs are using the information to ask three key questions:
How can I use our data to save money?
How can I use our data to make more money?
How can I use our data to drive greater efficiencies?
In our business, when our warehouse management system came online four years ago, that goldmine of information coming out of that started to pay off very quickly. To paraphrase my colleague Tim Proome, General Manager of supply chain services at Tarsus Distribution, we reduced costs, increased efficiency, and added third-party logistics to the business, providing e-commerce fulfillment services for other businesses, which has increased our revenue. That new line of business was developed as a result of a process of data analysis that revealed our resellers’ need for the services we are able to provide.
Becoming A Data-Driven SMB
Discovery Health mines big data to be able to offer medical aid and care and life insurance products to its customers. These product offerings take their lifestyle and driving habits into account so that they can offer them discounted benefits and premiums based on the choices consumers make, like going to the gym, eating healthily and driving carefully.
SMBs might not generate as much business information as large companies but their data is just as critical for them, and it must be protected from loss, corruption, attack and theft. For the SMB CEO, the process of turning data into gold begins with storing it correctlyto make it easy to manage and to be protected from internal and external threats.
Data security is especially important now that the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) has come into effect. It is critical that businesses put the controls in place to protect the personal information they process.Storing business information in the cloud provides better security, ensures that data is always backed up in case of disaster, and restricts access to only those who need it.
To monetise information requires business intelligence, or BI, to manage and transform disparate information into trusted information that can be used for business analysis and to visualise what is happening in the organisation. Done correctly, BI enables the data to tell a story. Once the story is clear, it can be used to simplify business processes, improve customer service, grow revenue and ultimately ensure sustainability, regardless of what the future may hold.