IS DATA DRIVING YOU OR ARE YOU DRIVING DATA?

February 19, 2014

Angry Man Throwing Computer

So, I’ve had some seriously frustrating times with data.  My data analysis either works beautifully and I have absolutely no trouble with it, or it doesn’t work and all I want to do at the time is take my computer and chuck it right out the window. I’m sure many of you have had this same problem.  I call it: “Technology sometimes needs to learn its place!”—or just because I like the word (it sounds cool)—I need to “defenestrate” said computer.

Top Challenges: What’s Working and What Isn’t Working

I was reading about the top challenges for CFOs and business leaders recently and guess what?  I wasn’t too surprised.  They are the same usual issues:  doing more with less, uncertainty, competition and cash flow, etc.   But, then I continued to read the article and saw they also responded about what was working for them.  Those responses actually did bring me a bit of disbelief:  communication, transparency and accountability, USING DATA and focusing on strengths were among them.

Data can be very helpful to our businesses; it can help us crank out numbers related to merchandise inventory or determine the most profitable service line.  Businesses can use data to analyze consumer behavior and be able to better provide those consumers with the products and services they desire.  Businesses are spending more and more time creating and analyzing databases and, from what we can see, it’s beginning to pay off.  Most businesses are taking a hard look at all of their operations to identify what activities, services or merchandise are profitable down to a per-person level. That’s pretty amazing!  Imagine how far you can go with data analysis and how it can help you make more strategic decisions.  Businesses are also looking at the per-product level and analyzing both processes and staffing.  Come to think of it, this “data thing” really can be a pretty sweet deal.

Alright, since we all have now become converts and big data fans, I guess we have to restrain ourselves from teaching that darn technology a lesson.  Speaking of technology, maybe it’s about time we use it to its full potential.  Let’s say we need to reduce the company’s accounts payable (AP) manual data entry; well it’s time to jump on that old techie bandwagon and start doing it.  There are also some really great—and inexpensive—analytical tools to help you with inventory management and forecasting to save time for a merchandising team or whoever needs that kind of assistance.  If used and applied correctly, it can also help reduce the company’s investment in inventory, as you can determine just the right quantity to keep on hand to meet your customers’ demands.  You can also review all or specific financial processes to identify areas for improved efficiencies and applying appropriate technology for that improvement.

Business Intelligence:  An Oxymoron?

Are you buried in data or even worse mired in analysis paralysis?  Business Intelligence (BI) is a discipline of understanding, interpreting and acting quickly on business data.  The goal, as a business, is to continually improve decision making.  Now, what exactly does BI mean?  In a broad sense it refers to analyzing an organization’s internal and external data by mining, processing, querying and reporting. Armed with real-time, targeted information your business should have no problem making proactive decisions and making them swiftly.

In theory, it’s a beautiful thing!  Hard data is like a crystal ball, it only speaks the truth. Numbers can’t lie, it’s just not in their nature.  Businesses are encouraged to collect their organizational intel (code speak for intelligence) like a bunch of rapscallion spies.  You know the CIA; they do that, too. They take that intel and place it ever so gently in the hands of the awesome folks that work at every level to give others the “I-can-so-totally-handle-this” complex.  Don’t get me wrong, you need people with that complex; it’s a good one to have.  The clear-cut information is meant to focus their strategic thought like a laser (PEW-PEW!).  Sadly, in reality this doesn’t always work, businesses struggle to get this up and running, so to speak.  Even the lucky ones that can usually get this stuff rolling with no problem experience challenges. The real problem is that no one really understands all of the data that is pouring in.  It’s like swimming in a pool of data and thirsting for the answers.

Start Driving Your Data

Now, here is where I tell you that you need to become fluent in “accountaneese” to understand how to drive your data…*EEERR* wrong!  You can learn how to get behind the wheel of your data and drive.  In today’s search engine world, success lies in framing the right question.  It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the amount of data that you have access to, but unable to use it effectively.  With just a little bit of help and guidance you can better establish the critical data points you need to gather. In other words, ask and you shall receive.

If you have any questions or think you could use a little guidance to become a superstar Data Driver, go ahead and shoot us an email on our website.  We’d love to help you drive your data.

Interested in some additional reading?  See the following:

The Top 5 Challenges Facing CFOs and What They Are Doing About It
http://www.ohioscpa.com/docs/cpa-voice/cpavoice_october2013_final.pdf?sfvrsn=2
 
Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_24822592_a-angry-black-man-throwing-his-laptop-over-his-head-for-white-background.html'>kurtvate / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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