ORGANIZATION OF DATA
We've previously written about where data might be lurking and how to find it within a business. This month, we’ll discuss how to best organize the data once you have uncovered it.
A best first step is to have a good understanding of what your data practices are going to be going forward. Most successful companies will develop a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that are usually 3-5 metrics that give key insights into the health of the company and whether or not specific goals are being reached. Other companies may only be looking for an immediate answer to a question or guidance on a decision based on historical data. For this historical analysis, you don’t need to give much consideration to how streamlined and innovative the data aggregation process is. I recommend aggregating all information that might be useful into one spreadsheet (see example). All variables should be set in the first row and set up as raw as possible. This allows for a variety of methods of data analysis to take place (discovering correlations, running regressions, or creating graphs and charts) depending on the goals of your company.
If you are looking to set up a long-term data practice for your business (such as with KPIs), you should find a platform for how you are going to import and visualize your data before beginning to organize it. Personally, I prefer Tableau, but there are a lot of other cloud-based platforms out there. The primary reason for this is to avoid wasting time doing a primary analysis when a system for data collection will need to be set up eventually anyways. Try to find a data visualization platform that communicates with your accounting platform and/or sales platform so that you are not stuck manually entering data that already exists somewhere else. From there, you can determine if you need to implement any data collection practices or hopefully have full integration requiring just the initial setup of the desired metrics.
I highly recommend setting up a solid and innovative data collection and aggregation practice in your business in the form of dashboards and/or KPIs. Understanding your important business metrics can help signify in real-time changes and can provide up-to-the-second insights to the health of the company. This can save time and money when having to make important decisions, and can immediately highlight actual or potential problems and/or opportunities as they arise.