Are you ready to graduate from spreadsheets to analytics?


Flexibility and nimbleness are terms synonymous with small and mid-sized businesses. They have the ability to react quickly to changing market conditions as they are made aware of them. Traditionally these businesses have lived in the world of spreadsheets - and why not? They are easy to use, very affordable and readily available to all staff across the business. However increasingly, they are realising there are a wealth of insights hidden within their data that once uncovered, can offer them a first-mover advantage and the opportunity to capitalise and stay ahead of the game.

IT departments of one

Most organisations of this size run a very lean IT team which requires finding those rare expertly-general skilled professionals to run everything from setting up computers to managing networks and dealing with internet security issues. Often these small teams do not have the bandwidth or desire to also become analytics experts. With our new generation of reporting and analytics tools your IT team does not need any analytics or programming skills as the creation of reports, dashboards and analytics are kept within the hands of the analyser.

IMG_5694 copyFootball NSW is a not-for-profit organisation that looks after 208,000 registered football players across the state. It employs 57 staff, one of which forms the entirety of its IT department – focusing primarily on desktop support. ‘Analytics’ was a meaningless term for them a year ago, before they introduced SAS® Visual Analytics to replace their spreadsheets. Their reason for turning to a full reporting and analytics tool was clear from the start, they had one question to answer:

“How do we use our data to better engage to our stakeholders – whether it’s councils, government, sponsors or member clubs.”

With that goal front and centre their small organisation is now using powerful visualisations to attract and retain participants focusing on the three F’s – football, facilities and finance. Answering new questions with their data such as:

  1. What do future numbers of football players look like and will councils have the facilities to cater for them?
  2. How do we provide our sponsors with information that provides value to them so they stay with us?
  3. What is the profile of our typical referee and how do we educate and retain them?

You might be thinking, yeah but how does a Football club relate to me and my organisation? The principle behind all of this remains the same; analytics is not just for the big guys, in fact small and mid-sized organisations can easily use analytics to discover insights without the need for specialist skills. In fact you don’t even need to purchase extra hardware as we enter the age of Cloud Analytics.

Start by dodging the Buzz-word bingo

Business is buzzing with terms such as ‘big data’ ‘industrial internet’ and ‘advanced analytics’. Companies are talking about needing to hire ‘data scientists’ and having ‘machine to machine’ conversations, but for most organisations the question of where to start does not involve any of these terms.

The best starting point for most businesses embarking on an analytics journey is to get back to basics by better understanding their internal data… For the average business, data is all over the place. It can be found in different applications (finance, HR etc) some of which may be sitting in the cloud, or in dusty places such as archives, storage devices or spreadsheets that have been buried deep within your filing systems. Identifying and bringing all of this data together in a ‘single version of the truth’ is the foundation for gaining deeper insights, more accurate reporting and improved confidence in your data. It’s critical when you’re faced with this environment to ensure you seek a solution that not only consolidates and standardises data to build an integrated data view but then allows you to tell a story that looks both to the past and helps hypothesise about the future.

You do need to start with a clear attainable goal in mind, and it doesn’t need to include ‘saving the world’ at step one. Ensure your objective will enable you to either show value quickly (payback value) or achieve something which will have widespread visibility within the business (an issue that no one has been able to solve, or a way of using data to look at a falling market in a different way for example).

The world is rapidly changing. The value of managing data as an asset is now becoming a topic for most boardroom conversations. SAS Visual Analytics for the Cloud gives small to mid-market businesses the ability not only to have those exact same conversations but to act on them immediately. Analytics is no longer just for the large banks or government departments, it’s an option everyone can now capitalise on, and those who are flexible and nimble have the most to gain.


About Author

Carmen Gallagher

Carmen Gallagher is the head of Information Management and Big Data at SAS Australia and New Zealand. Carmen has spent many years focusing on helping companies achieve maximum benefit from data kept within their systems and has long been championing the need for a data quality and governance focus within all organisations, especially as the world of big data is redefining how we make business decisions.

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