A guide to data analysis tools: How to transform your data into strategy

Here, we look at different types of online data analysis opportunities and point out some of the useful applications along the way.

How much data does your company generate every week? Every day? The amount might be way higher than you think. More activities get quantified in our daily lives, so our businesses aren’t any different. As a regular person, you can measure your steps, number of acquaintances on a social network, or keep an eye on your sleeping habits by using a neat widget. Just imagine how much more data a company’s activities can produce as these processes are multi-layered and complex.

By the way, all of that data is useless. The data becomes useful once it’s organised and analysed into meaningful knowledge. Afterwards, this knowledge can be used for making smart business decisions. Now, the only question remains: how do we crunch all the data and analyse the results? There are many tools available. We’ll be looking at different types of online data analysis opportunities and pointing out some of the useful applications along the way.

Incorporate public data

A friendly reminder: not only data from your own enterprise’s processes will help to grow your business. Public data will make you understand the wider trends in your region, industry, and economic space. Be sure to tap into this vast data pool. While doing that, try to aim for the data sets and metrics provided by reliable and well-known organisations like US Census Bureau, Eurostat, and World Economic Forum. Then your statistics are trustworthy because all of these datasets are coming from very reputable sources. You just need to be creative and find the data that fits your business.

Use custom interfaces

A custom interface can be created for your corporate data, so you are always in the know about the latest metrics. Data visualisation is a very useful feature for presentations and meetings where you really have to get your point across. Custom interfaces are a great solution because you can tinker with the output indicators to align the data points with your message. Similarly, when you integrate your website data to your customers’ user experience, the results can be fantastic as your visitors can enjoy rich visual representations of useful data that would otherwise be buried in the databases.

Put your data to work

Some companies accumulate data in tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of rows per week. Always remember that the data analysis tools have grown in their functionality and capabilities over the last years. Some blocks of data could have taken an unrealistic amount of time to crunch in the fast-paced business environment where quick decision-making and swiftly moved intelligence gets rewarded. Nowadays, you are able to merge two or more gigantic tables to make a unified visualisation that includes all datasets. Instant visualisation methods are a prime choice for every business or manager who needs to work with big datasets.

Try it out in all industries

So many companies and sectors need creative ways to showcase data. Real estate, hospitality, medical services, and production lines are just some examples of data-heavy industries. What happens often is that people from seemingly data-scarce sectors find innovative ways to use data analysis tools in their daily management. A movie theatre might optimise their ticket sales, a small start-up may increase their digital marketing ROI, and a public library can use data analysis to become more efficient in their daily customer service. Sometimes you need to show visualised data to your customers in order to gain a competitive edge over the other players in the same field. Graphs might be essential for communicating within smaller teams. Most software is based on drag & drop methods that are innovative and very easy to implement in daily business activities.

Boost your social media presence

Online data analysis tools are essential for effective, powerful social media presence. Especially, when you are working in larger social media management teams, it’s very important that all the people have the same metrics in front of their eyes. Having this unified data will help to foster teamwork through aiming for common goals. Also, the team members will understand potential pitfalls in a similar fashion because they derive their knowledge from the same source.

Get the basics right

Data analysis isn’t all about glitzy graphs and jaw-dropping visualisations. Sometimes you need tools for the basic procedures. When you have messy data, you’ll find yourself having a hard time making any sense of it. You can use tools to clean your data, transform from one format to the other, and extend the data using external sources. Having ‘dirty data’ means that even some otherwise wonderful programs and web applications might deliver bland, or outright unusable, results. Always make sure that the data to be analysed is clean and ready for further work.

Go for advanced solutions (if needed)

There are times when you need to step up the game and find new tools for data analysis. You should know that there are products available out there that are based on machine learning and data mining to upgrade your data analysis. Possibly useful functions include stochastic optimisation, risk analysis and Monte Carlo simulation. Using data to make predictions is a valuable function. Some businesses need time series forecasting and affinity analysis to decide on matters that have big consequences for their operation.

The previously described data analysis possibilities are just tip of the iceberg when it comes to great, innovative solutions available to businesses today. Nowadays, there aren’t too many managers and business owners out there who wouldn’t see the value in using data analysis tools to take the next step in their road towards entrepreneurial success.

In order to create spot-on strategies for growing your business, you should use more than one tool at a time. Each of these tools has their own strengths and weaknesses. By playing these pros and cons against each other, you’ll find out which mix of data analysis tools suits you the best. Most of the time, there’s no use in asking what are the particular good and bad sides of a given application. People working in different fields find that a tool not working at all for their competition might be an invaluable asset to their own enterprise. The best thing to do is experimenting with different apps so that you can build up a comprehensive set of tools for gaining an ultimate strategical advantage.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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