How to use data effectively to drive your business success

Leader Talk Guest Brad Kasell

Brad Kasell is the Principal Technology Strategist at Domo Australia.

Brad brings over 27 years of experience in software engineering, management consulting, sales, digital strategy and data protection, and has held previous roles at multinationals including McKinsey, Deloitte Digital, PwC, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, and Salesforce in Australia and the United States. 

Brad is passionate about leveraging data analytics and emerging technologies to enhance productivity, emphasising its value as a pivotal asset for innovation and efficiency in today’s fast-paced digital landscape.

Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Brad Kasell on YouTubeSpotifyListen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.

Authored by Brad Kasell, Principal Technology Strategist at Domo Australia

For many small business owners, “data analytics” might sound too technical and intimidating. But in today’s digital age, where data is literally at your fingertips, there’s really no excuse not to use it to your advantage and set your business apart. And it’s not as complex as it seems. Let’s break it down and explore how you can use data to make smarter decisions and grow your business.

Embracing data to make better decisions

Data is essentially just information – information that helps you determine the best steps to take. Think of data as an assistant who gathers all the important information you need to make smarter business decisions. Data is a tool that’s here to stay, and its role in business will only grow. It’s especially crucial when you need to justify decisions to investors and stakeholders.

If you’re not actively using data like many others are, you risk falling behind. Every day, from Amazon delivery drivers who optimise their routes to baristas at your local cafe adjusting their coffee stock based on daily sales patterns, people use data to improve their operations. Working with data doesn’t have to be daunting or overly technical. It’s just another part of your daily routine.

Where can you find data for your business? It’s all around you. Many business owners feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data available, but the key is to focus on what genuinely matters to your business. Forget the complicated terms and focus on the basics, which might include:

  • Sales numbers: Daily receipts, popular items, seasonal trends.
  • Customer feedback: Comments on social media, satisfaction surveys, direct feedback.
  • Operational costs: Inventory levels, utility expenses, supplier prices.
  • Employee performance: Shift productivity, sales per employee, customer interactions.
  • Website traffic: Visitor numbers, page views, online sales conversions.

All these are forms of data that, when understood correctly, can change the way you make decisions for the better. Start with the basics, and you’ll quickly see opportunities and improvements in your business. Let’s go further into how you can simplify data collection and analysis.

Becoming ‘data literate’

For many business owners, the challenge isn’t finding data, it’s handling the overwhelming amount of data they have. Becoming data literate means learning what data to keep track of (and what to ignore) and how to use it effectively.

You don’t need to be a tech expert to determine what metrics matter most for your business. Take a café owner, for example. They might not use complex data tools but they keep track of daily sales, popular menu items, and customer feedback on social media. Using this information wisely is key to being data literate.

To figure out what data is important to your business and what’s not, you need to ask the right questions: Is this data useful? What do my staff think? Is it cumbersome to collect? Am I seeing a return on investment on this? Creating a feedback loop within your team will help you figure out what’s valuable and what might be just noise. It’s okay if it takes some trial and error to get it right. That’s part of the learning curve.

Starting small and scaling your data usage

If you’re new to using data, start small. Pick one or two types of data that directly impact your business performance. This might be tracking daily sales, monitoring how many customers come in, or keeping an eye on online interactions. Keep track of these consistently to see trends and use those insights to shape your business strategies.

For most businesses, there are two areas in which you should gather information. The first area is the operational data. If you own a cafe, for example, your operational data would be tracking the cost of essential supplies like coffee beans or avocados If prices rise, this data helps you decide whether to raise your menu prices or lower portion sizes. That’s really practical data that you can use to your advantage. Most small business owners have a good handle on that already. Intuitively, you’re asking questions like “Can I find a better supplier?”, “What happens if I buy in bulk or at a certain time of the week?” or “How else can I optimise my operations?”

Beyond operational data, another important but often overlooked source of data is social media engagement and customer feedback. If you post pictures on Instagram of your tradespeople at work or a before and after shot of your landscaping services and you gather reactions and engagement, those are sources of data. Google reviews are a source of data. This feedback, whether praise or criticism, is valuable data that can guide service improvements and updates.

I highly recommend using one of the many digital tools out there that make collating and analysing your insights easy. They don’t require a lot of set-up and you only pay for what you use, making it easy to expand as your business grows. These usually offer clear dashboards so you can make quick, informed decisions. Many of these tools are affordable and the investment often pays off by helping you make decisions that save money and increase sales in the long run.

Using data to gain a competitive advantage

The real goal of using data is to gain insights that give you an edge over the competition. To do this, you need to understand the clear distinction between reporting and gaining true insights. tracking that you sold 500 cups of coffee yesterday and 490 today counts as reporting. Insights, however, should reveal new opportunities or efficiencies. For example, if the data shows a dip in sales after 3 PM, launching a “happy hour” could turn a slow period into a profitable one. These are the types of insights that can transform your operations.

Smart use of data can also lead to innovative solutions to common problems. If the data shows that your store is busiest at noon, you might adjust staff schedules or run special promotions during those hours to further increase sales.

The real value of data is finding unexpected or weird trends that you weren’t aware of before, and in which you can find an opportunity. A great example of this is in some cafes, where there are two baristas – one handles the espresso, the other the milk. Their data showed they could handle more orders by simply reorganising tasks among these two baristas, potentially doubling output.

Start testing how to use your key data to make smart decisions that help your business grow and run smoothly. Whether it’s changing your products to match what your customers like or planning your staff’s work schedule to better meet customer demand, the right data can give you valuable insights that grow your business.

Democratising your business data

Data democracy is making data available to everyone within your business. In the past especially in larger companies, managing the data or creating the reports were tasks reserved for specialist teams and data scientists. But there was no creativity there or the ability to find unexpected correlations.

When data is accessible to all levels of your business, it enhances decision-making across the board. Your waitress might notice from the data that adding extra help during busy periods could significantly boost efficiency. Such insights are only possible with a deep understanding of daily operations and are empowered by easy access to relevant data.

Data experience platforms such as Domo have made it easier to democratise data, offering ways for employees to access, view and extract insights from data through visual and easy-to-use dashboards, mobile devices and social feeds without needing detailed reports or the help of data specialists or teams. This encourages all staff members, front and back of house, to engage with data in meaningful ways. Good ideas come from everywhere in the business.

To make data accessible, present it in simple and focused ways. Dashboards and visualisations should be clear and only show the most relevant data for daily operations. This helps employees quickly understand what’s working well and what isn’t, without needing to sift through complex data sets. Overloading employees with too much information can lead to analysis paralysis. As a business owner, you should curate the data, focusing on key metrics like cost of supplies, daily sales, and customer feedback. Choose five to 10 things that really make a difference to the business and share these with your team. Naturally, they’ll come up with ideas to make things better.

Think of data not as a technical challenge, but as an opportunity to understand your business better. Start with the basics, focus on what truly matters, and use the insights to push your business forward. Remember, the path to becoming data-driven should be strategic and straightforward, not complicated. As you finish reading this article, ask yourself, what data is making a difference to your business and what’s not?

About Domo

Domo puts data to work for everyone so they can multiply their impact on the business. Our cloud-native data experience platform goes beyond traditional business intelligence and analytics, making data visible and actionable with user-friendly dashboards and apps. Underpinned by AI, data science and a secure data foundation that connects with existing cloud and legacy systems, Domo helps companies optimize critical business processes at scale and in record time to spark the bold curiosity that powers exponential business results.  

For more information, visit the Domo website. You can also follow Domo on LinkedIn, X and Facebook