In the past, analyzing “big data” to identify customer opportunities and business efficiencies was beyond the reach of small- and medium-sized businesses. But now, technological advances have brought big data analytics within reach of smaller enterprises.
There’s no question that “data analytics can be useful to businesses of just about any size,” according to Sarah Krom, managing partner at SKC & Co. CPAs. “The term ‘big data’ scares some people, but between affordable software packages and consultants with expertise in big data analytics, there is really nothing to stop them from utilizing it.”
Internally, the 30-person firm incorporates data analytics in operational tracking, internal benchmarks marketing, search engine optimization and even “to determine the most effective time to send out our newsletters,” noted Ryan Warnet, leader of SKC & Co.’s data analytics team
Big data can also be customized to meet a particular business’ needs, Krom added. “We can present the data in an easy-to-understand dashboard format,” she explained. “For professional services firms, we can highlight billable and non-billable hours; while we can help manufacturing companies analyze the profitability of individual jobs, and we can also help them to determine optimal points for inventory restock.”
“[W]e can also help manufacturers to highlight day’s orders closed, cash collected, and real-time inventory levels” every day, Krom said. “The data is presented with green and red indicators to denote positive or negative conditions, and it enables appropriate individuals to quickly scan the data and decisions without having to wade through multiple reports.”
The firm launched the data analytics service line in 2019, and clients quickly warmed to it. Warnet pointed to one client, Marmiro Stones, Inc.— a high-end natural stone fabricator and designer — that almost stumbled after it saw a sharp increase in sales. “Owners Moe and Heidi Arpacilar had difficulty finding the time to manage their company data and stay on top of day-to-day operations,” he recalled. “Part of the issue was that the company had a cumbersome process to send important sales reports to salespersons and business owners in Excel or PDF format.”
SKC’s data analytics team created automated, interactive and customizable reports that Marmiro officials can access information, “whether at their desk on the computer, or on a phone or tablet when traveling,” Warnet said. “This gives them the ability to drill down into the deepest form of detail to find specific answers to any anomalies or discrepancies, while also enabling them to easily create an up-to-date snapshot each day of the company overall, showing critical company metrics including cash flows, inventory management, individual performance reports, and open orders.”
Often, “clients won’t directly ask us for ‘data analytics,’ but will instead ask us to help solve an inefficiency,” Krom added. “They tell us, ‘I have a problem,’ and we help solve it with their data. This enables us to perform even more services for our clients, further strengthening our business relationship with them.”
Other professional services firms have jumped on the bandwagon.
“At our company, we use multiple streams of data collections to help clients in their decision-making processes, as well as to identify gaps in their services and where they should be focusing attention and resources,” said Carl Mazzanti, founder and president of eMazzanti Technologies.
“Predictive analytics, for example, can help to pinpoint processes that are likely to fail within a designated timeframe — companies with this kind of ‘early warning’ can take steps to mitigate or prevent the failures.”
One of his clients, a New Jersey-based fashion house, analyzes data from retailers on a real-time basis to track consumer preferences, and then utilizes the findings in its design process.
“They’re at the point where their retail partners can conduct video interviews — using our software — with high-end personal shoppers and artificial intelligence applications can gauge the shopper’s level of engagement and interest,” Mazzanti added. “The system can then automatically signal the employee who’s running the interview, and he or she will adjust their offering. This kind of live feedback is also shared with our client, who can then adjust their fashion line accordingly. Fashion houses typically scramble to anticipate customer demand for the upcoming season, but the combination of AI and data analytics take the guesswork out of it. Our client launched their design house about three years ago with only three employees — and today has more than 100.”
Mazzanti said the same holds for his own company. “We launched a core ERP (enterprise resource planning) group about two years ago, to help our clients unify critical business functions like finance, manufacturing, inventory and order management, and sales and marketing,” he noted. “Next year we anticipate the practice will grow by up to 75%. We’re already hiring MBAs and data analysts to help us with decision support — it’s a long-term bet on continued growth. The goal is to be able to spotlight client needs before they even realize they have those needs.”
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