Gathered at a round table debate, held by hosting and colocation firm UKFast, the panel warned that analytics can have an adverse effect – such as stifling creativity – on companies who don’t use the data wisely.
Lawrence Jones, CEO of hosting and colocation firm UKFast, explained: “Everyone is talking about big data, but we need to concentrate on small data. Analytics gives us the tools to look at small chunks of data, see where we are going wrong and in turn, make changes that will improve the company – rather than drowning in masses of data that won’t make a difference to the business.
“Analytics can prove to be a real eye-opener into parts of your business that may become overlooked, and the changes that come from examining that data can bring about great growth for a company.”
It’s not only the amount of data that businesses choose to analyse that matters, James Welch, CTO at online marketing campaigns business Online Ventures, warned that collecting the ‘right’ data is key.
He said: “The savviest businesses out there are the ones who apply the 80/20 principle – concentrating on things that matter and producing really good content from that. Many companies see statistics and then do nothing about it. Others see data, understand it, and then use the right parts to do something with it to make changes. If you can collect the right data, you can always find something useful to do with it.”
Research from the Big Data Insight Group recently revealed that just 18% of businesses would call themselves ‘data driven’. Kevin Savage, business director at social media monitoring and semantic analysis company Trufflenet, warned that not using the data that’s available properly or relying on intuition could be costly for firms.
Savage said: “In the online world, allegedly everything is measurable, yet businesses spend money without knowing if it will make any real impact.
“Whatever it is you’re doing – analysing big data or conversations from tweets – if you don’t have a business understanding it’s pointless. Vanity metrics measure what’s easy but not necessarily what is more important.”
Tim Langley, co-founder of prospect analytics pioneer Canddi, compared the use of analytics to a scientific experiment.
He said: “The companies who make the best use of analytics are those who treat data as a science. They have a business objective to move from A to B, build a hypothesis and test it. They’re the ones who say ‘we want to improve our reach, what will be an effective way of doing that?’
“They then set up the test using the analysis and data tools to capture and understand whether the experiment was a success or failure. If it proves to be a success, keep doing it. If it failed, stop the changes as soon as possible and move forward.”
Robert Waller, founder and lead developer of social media management company Status People, pointed to the difference analytics can make to businesses of varying sizes.
He said: “Analytics is especially important to SMEs and businesses that want to grow dramatically, because it can help them generate growth. If you’re a business advertising during the super bowl, you’re on a completely different scale, so it’s difficult to know the effect analytics is having on your company.
“The growth from £10bn to £10.2bn is negligible when compared to SMEs, who might go from a £1m to £10m business because of a change brought about by analytical data.”
But Lauryn Chidoni, analyst and user experience strategist at digital marketing agency Quirk, posed the point that excessive analytics can prove damaging.
She said: “Because there is so much data available to measure, businesses think they have to measure everything. There is a tipping point where too much testing can crush innovation, so it’s about finding out which data is most valuable to you, and which data can help your business.
“There is no one solution, but businesses need to future-proof themselves. They must look at their business needs, and assess how often, and when, is the best time to do that testing and make changes from the results.”