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Data analytics: Helping firms get ahead of the pack

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Small firms in today's business world are all about getting results and maximizing revenue streams. The days are over when businesses were able to roll out their products and have the time to wait and see if they got the desired results. Owners of smaller companies need to use business analytics to gather data-driven research about their firms.

"As timely decision making becomes more important, analytics is improving and changing the way those decisions get made," said Angelia Herrin, research and special projects editor at Harvard Business Review.

Why are firms using business analytics tools?
According to a recent survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, more than half of the organizations that use business analytics tools reported an improved financial performance. Small business owners can use these types of tools to learn about trends in their industries to get a leg up on their competitors.

"What's different now is the tools allow me to see what was important last year, last quarter and last week so I can understand what will happen tomorrow, next month and next year," wrote Filippo Passerini, group president of global business services and chief information officer of Procter & Gamble, in the report. "That is a huge conceptual shift in thinking."

The report outlined how businesses are able to use analytics to avoid making the same mistake and gather insights that lead to strategic decision making. Firms using analytics have also experienced benefits such as increased productivity, reduced risks and the ability to make quicker choices.

"This survey shows that analytics is not just a tool or a technology as much as a driver of a decision-making discipline that ushers in an era of cultural change - and improved performance," said Herrin.

Are business analytics new?
Businesses have had the ability to analyze their success and failures for years, but recent innovations such as software solutions have made it easier for firms to get a handle on their data.

"We've used data analysis for 50 years, but we're just beginning to develop predictive ability through business models to anticipate what's coming," wrote Passerini.

Businesses need to be sure that their hardware is protected with virus protection and cyberliability insurance. The last thing firm owners want is someone to hack their computers and mobile devices and steal the data they have worked so hard to collect.

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