Why SMEs should harness the power of analytics

Gibu Mathew, Vice President, and GM, Asia Pacific, Zoho Corp

Despite the attention paid to multi-nationals, government-linked corporations and prominent local public companies, the fact is that the economies of ASEAN’s member states are dominated by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

In fact, micro, small and medium-size enterprises represent around 97-99% of the enterprise population in most ASEAN countries.

Southeast Asia is however one of the fastest growing regions in the world and although small and medium businesses have an important window of opportunity, they must increase their competitiveness if they are to survive and grow in a highly competitive marketplace.

What SMEs must do is deploy the power of Analytics.

Blending data across traditional silos

Global businesses of every size and in every sector are facing increasing complexity and market volatility. In response, almost all business functions are turning to data-driven analytics and insights as a means to manage this increasing uncertainty, and pursue growth through a better understanding of their organisations’ customer bases.

Responding to consumers’ demand to engage with their vendors, many SMEs are already using a variety of tools to support and track customers, manage social media, and run advertising campaigns.

However, when these tools are stand-alones, operating in silos, their value is diminished. Combining them all in a dedicated analytics platform vastly increases the value of this data and the decisions it facilitates. Analytics can draw on, aggregate and analyse data from marketing, sales, and customer service – and derive transformational insights into customer behaviour and preferences

Potential for growth through data and analytics

The sheer pace of change and the jargon that goes with digital transformation may be disconcerting to traditionally-run SMEs.

In fact, however, cutting through the jargon reveals basic business objectives and methods that any business owner will immediately understand and endorse.

Big data, for example, is not all about having unlimited amounts of information. It's more a case of receiving high-quality, timely information that is specific, relevant and valuable to the business.

Putting analytics to work becomes easier all the time - new generation analytics tools integrate with third parties making the job of data scientist or business owner far easier, as the hard work of pulling all the data from disparate systems is done on their behalf.

Analytics at your fingertips

Data analytics produces numbers, and businesses that put numbers to work can expect to see numerous improvements, including better service level performance, better order fulfillment, improved supplier management, maximised customer value, lower costs and better product management. They are more likely to outperform competitors in key performance metrics—including sales, sales growth, profit and return on investment.

Analytics tools also incorporate data mobility, aiding faster business decision making since the data is available, when and where it is needed.

AI and Predictive analytics is redefining reporting

Every business runs on multiple apps depending on their own unique needs. A company might use a CRM to manage customer interactions, a support desk app to resolve customer problems, and so on. In such cases, data is being constantly generated from multiple sources, which is why a unified data analytics platform is necessary to make sense of it.

With advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, today’s machines can read, have conversations, learn and analyse previously unmanageable amounts of data. By using such sophisticated analytics tools in conjunction with AI, the value that SMEs can extract from the vast amounts of data available to them is immense.

Beyond making day-to-day business tasks simpler and more efficient, and improving the quality of interactions with customers, analytics can provide businesses with important strategic support. Analytics can help evaluate predicted outcomes to better understand the financial impact of key decisions, and can also be harnessed to better manage risks.

Conversational analytics tools improves user experience

With conversational interfaces in BI tools, the task of making sense of your data by querying the right segment of data that you need , in the right format becomes as easy as having a conversation with your [ersonal assistant. Improvements in natural language processing is taking the improvements right in to data integrpretation making it easier for business owners to make quicker decisions without having to learn or unlearn complexities that are akin to data science projects.

The bottom line is that the right data analytics tool can combine and blend data from multiple apps to provide SMEs with end-to-end insights into their business, making sure they stay agile, relevant, and able to seize every opportunity for growth.