I love lists (and data!)

I love lists. In fact I’ve even been known to make lists of lists. Not only that, but if I complete a task and realise it was never on a list, I’ll put it on just so I can cross it off straight away. I’m not a psychologist, but I do know that having lists helps me feel in control and makes it less likely that I forget to do something. Admittedly there are never ending to do lists – much of that comes from running a business, but there equally as many lists to do with my life outside of work.

In many respects lists are critical to many aspects of my business, but they come with different names: methodologies, frameworks, approaches, checklists. In their own way each one can help move a project forward and develop an evidence base. It is this last phrase, evidence base, which is so commonly used but so genuinely hard to achieve. After all, how can you have evidence based decision making if you don’t have a robust evidence base? What if you’ve never used analytics before to help make business decisions where do you start?

Starting something new can be daunting and exciting – how do you work out where to actually start? What piece of kit do you need? I was pondering these questions as I went to swim training this week. Having been a keen swimmer all my life, I finally went back to squad training last year. Getting back into the pool with other swimmers was terrifying: how would my capabilities be judged? What if I didn’t understand what I was being asked to do? What if everyone realised I wasn’t any good and I couldn’t complete the sets? It boiled down to (literally) taking a big deep breath and jumping in where I was. In answer to all my questions: I am only racing against myself and I am my harshest judge; there are others in the same place as me who ask as many questions as I do and lastly, I am getting better and have even started to learn butterfly.

When you work in a small business it’s easy to get distracted by the million and one things vying for your attention. Data cleansing, volumes of data, access to data might not be at the top of your list. But developing a robust evidence base on which to base company strategy and decision making can and will help. There’s no need to wait forever for the perfect data to start with, you can jump in where you are, make a start and learn as you go. Analytics can help in all areas of business from: identifying patterns and trends in sales; predicting the next “big thing” through to optimising business processes (for example the most efficient postage options, tracking stock, and targeting marketing campaigns) to name but a few. Deciding which tools or techniques to apply might take some research, or perhaps a conversation over a cup of coffee (which can be on Bays Consulting if you think we can help). Not starting to look at how analytics can help won’t move you forward. Taking a chance and staring something new see your business start to fly.

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