Is data analytics impacting your bottom line or just creating more work?

In the last decade or so, there has been an explosion of Business Intelligence (BI), power BI and analytics platforms, and there are tens of thousands of data companies around the world. By Andrew Dawson, MD of MACmobile The aim of all of this is to mine, extract and visualise data with the objective of providing intelligence to aid in decision-making. Companies across the globe, including enterprises in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) space, have spent millions of dollars building intelligence teams and disseminating information in dashboards and reports. But is all of this data actually making a tangible positive impact to the bottom line? Or are we drowning sales teams in information overload with a net-negative impact on their productivity? A time sink The premise of BI and analytics is that putting the right information in the right hands at the right time will empower people to make better decisions that will result in more productivity and profitability. However, the reality may be a very different story. Sales teams are now spending hours upon hours of their time sourcing, reading, clicking through to dashboards, all to understand problems in the market and how to fix them. The challenge comes in when you attempt to measure time and effectiveness versus time wasted. What if it is taking so long for teams to sort through their data that by the time they find the answer or the opportunity, the opportunity itself is lost? For example, a sales team of 20 reps on the ground may get a daily report from the BI team ostensibly highlighting changes, opportunities and deviations, which need to be understood and addressed. In order to do this, they need to read the reports and dig into the data. If each rep spends 20 minutes every day digesting reports, this amounts to 10 hours of time looking for problems that are historical in nature, rather than conducting sales activities. The real cost? What is the advantage of the opportunity less the time spent searching? What exactly is it that we are driving with BI dashboards and what is the real cost to business? Information overload can easily lead to information misdirection, cascading down a complex path that may not yield the results desired. Once you have spent significant time understanding the data and digging through the detail, is there even anything that can be done about the insight, or is it already too late? With the current status quo, sales teams often end up spending hours upon hours researching data that is misdirected or even irrelevant, which ends up costing money without enhancing opportunity. The challenge with analytics and intelligence no longer lies with accessing the data, but at obtaining the right insight fast enough for it to make a difference. Time for change The goal now needs to be to move away from creating a hubris of time wasting that takes teams away from their real job of selling and generate real change-driving insights from a sales perspective. This requires the platforms used to generate information to change, and it needs data personnel to understand the FMCG space, otherwise the focus will be skewed toward mining the data rather than identifying the real opportunity. Decision-making that is driven by noisy data can never yield the results desired. Data must be relevant, and in FMCG, which by definition moves fast, retrospective trends can never accurately predict the future. Any investment into intelligence tools and analytics must deliver strong, impactful results that have a positive influence on the bottom line.