Turning Data into Information
In order to really understand what is happening in your business, you need to turn data into information. Turing data into information will help you identify trends and find opportunities you might not have noticed.
Decide what information you want
The information that you want will guide the rest of the process of turning data into information. If you are having trouble deciding what you want, look at your plans for the future and consider what sort of information will help you identify opportunities, needs and track your progress. As time goes by you should be able to make better judgements about what you need.
Gather the data
Data is a building block of information. So in order to get the business information you want you will need to gather relevant business data. Data is all around us, but if you want to turn data into information, you will need to gather the relevant data together. There are many ways to gather data and information. For instance, if you are looking for data about your website’s performance, you can use a website analytics service. Or if you are looking for information on products or services you sell, you may create a spreadsheet to track individual points that are important to your goals.
Organize your data
Once you have gathered your data, you need to make sure it is organized in a way that will allow you to use it the way you need to. Personally, I like Excel spreadsheets, but they aren’t always the answer. The good news about organizing you data is that with some planning, you can often organize it while it is being gathered. For instance, Google Analytics automatically collects data for me and it allows me to view that data in various ways, focusing on different aspects that I may find interesting or useful. The key thing to remember is that when you organize the data, it should be organized in a way that will be useful to you and your business without being overly cumbersome.
Analyze your information
Analysis is generally where you start getting value from your information. When you analyze the data you have collected, you will (hopefully) be able to find patterns that help you understand what is going on and give you insights into trends that could continue to effect your business in the future. This information can help you plan and prepare.
Another thing you may discover is that you don’t quite have the entire picture and that more data may be needed. Or you may discover that you have been focusing on data that isn’t as relevant as you thought. In these cases, you may need to go back and rework some of your data collection and organization practices.
As you analyze your information, look for new insights that it can lead you to. Ask yourself questions regarding why various trends exist (or not). For instance, if you discover that your online purchases tend to cluster around a certain time of day, consider why that could be and what you should do about it. Is it that the purchases cluster around times that you interact with clients via your newsletter or social media? Is that a time of day where your clients are more likely to be thinking about the solution you offer? Is everyone buying in the last 15 minutes of a promotion you offer?
Beyond the whys also consider what you should be doing. Should you be contacting people always at the same time of day or should you try different times? Should you schedule an event for the time that your clients appear to be available? Should you make certain you are not performing website maintenance during the times that people are trying to buy things from you?
What you can do
As you are gathering your data, consider how you can organize it into useable information and see if you can build that organization into your data collection efforts. Over the next few days, chose one or more categories of business information that you gather and check to see if it is organized in a way that allows you to analyze it for insights. If it isn’t, start developing a system that works for you and your business’s needs.