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To find the answers to your pressing business questions, you have to employ data analytics. This will enable you to combine your data from various sources and process it to provide you with the needed insights to make better-informed decisions, helping the business move forward and achieve what it set out to achieve.
However, where do you really start when doing this kind of exercise? According to Paul Morgan, Business Unit Lead for Data, Planning and Analytics at Altron Karabina, it depends on what your business goals are. “We assist companies to find the answers to their business questions by building data analytics solutions that are specific to their business. We help them utilise data straight from the business and generate meaningful reports with insights that are focussed on that specific business and their goals.”
In order to do that, Altron Karabina will sit with a company to first identify what those aims and goals are – which is the most important aspect of all – and evaluate the data that will be used or is needed to be used, before putting an analytics system together that will lead to the resolution of your issues and provide answers to your pressing questions.
If you're not starting at that end, you are going to end up with half-truths and that can lead you to make the wrong decisions for your business and can affect so many areas in your organisation, such as finance, sales, marketing and even HR. There can be a huge impact on your business as a result of partial truths if you don't use the correct data and especially if you use data out of context.
“It is difficult to get 100% of the truth because there are often specific things that are not stored in any database, anywhere (for example, in an employee's mind), but generally the more context you can add to that data today, the better,” Morgan says.
The decisions businesses make can lead to branch closures and letting staff go or even entire businesses to fold and close up shop. This is especially scary when people are looking at financial reports and simply looking at the numbers, often without context, and purely seeing the numbers.
“If you make a call to close a branch, or discontinue a product line because the numbers on a report say one thing, be careful because there could be a whole other story behind those numbers. Never make business decisions without context,” Morgan stresses.
It's a classic question here: how do you know when you're only going halfway or making decisions based on half-truths?
One of the things that software technology companies have started to do these days is to store data in data lakes that are much cheaper than in the past and centrally storing that data. A challenge however is what data to store; for example, if we're only looking at sales and HR, you might make a decision based on the cost of storing data that you actually don't know if you are going to use in future.
“Businesses often think storing data in a data lake is the answer. A data lake is like a massive distribution centre,” explains Morgan. “There’s a lot of data piled in there and it's often difficult to find the stuff that you are looking for. You still need to make an effort to add context to that data and present it in the right way. You need a mechanism to make the data from the data lake part of a consolidated data platform, which is what we, as Altron Karabina, do for businesses.”
Aligned with an agile methodology, organisations can build a minimum viable product and then you go to the next version of the product and the next version and eventually they will arrive at something that is useful. This, however, takes time and today businesses don't have that time or the money if they are trying to stay competitive.
“We look at the final picture and the goal first and ask: what difference is this going to make if I have this data in front of me in the right way and what difference is it going to make to the company?
When you are building a set of analytics for an organisation, you have to make decisions on what the right direction is to go into and based on the amount of money that you want to spend, which brings us to that old classic of return on investment (ROI), which is still absolutely there. Though it costs less these days to build analytic solutions, it still costs,” says Morgan.
To help organisations improve the business you have to get at least some indication of what that value is before you start putting the effort in to build the solution. Companies like Altron Karabina can help businesses with the question of how much it's going to cost and how it's going to impact that business. They need to be there to help you improve the business in whatever way, and you have to get at least some indication of what that value is before you start putting the effort into building a solution.
Organisations that already know their endpoint have a clearer understanding of what will be needed and what questions will need to be answered, which their data analytics solution and reporting insights will provide.
Businesses that are not clear on their endpoint or goals, will definitely need the help of a company to develop an analytics solution that takes specific data sources and data streams into account, and not only provide a solution, but also guidance and understanding of their business goals and activities.
“These businesses need extra help to try and understand what are the most valuable questions to answer and though those questions might not be immediately apparent at the outset of the engagement, we help them reach that point,” Morgan concludes.