How Can Business Leaders Utilize Existing Financial Data to Make More Informed Decisions?

David Walters

David WaltersGroup Data Director at Creditsafe.

Monday, October 7, 2019

We're producing more data than ever before, but so many CFOs don't know how to use this information to make better business decisions.

Article

Business leaders across the world can no longer ignore big data. A report by Dresner Advisory Services found that big data adoption in enterprises rose from 17% in 2015 to 59% in 2018, highlighting the fact that those at the cutting edge of their field are utilizing data to guide their initiatives.

This news comes at an important time for the global economy. With the Bank of England warning that ongoing Brexit uncertainty will damage the economy and the IMF blaming unpredictable trading trends for ‘slugging global growth’, it’s crucial that economic actors make more intentional business decisions that encourage growth. 

‘Big data’ has been a popular term in recent years - and for good reason. By better utilizing information to guide business decisions, businesses of all shapes and sizes can drive efficiency, reduce costs and generate additional profit. This information can be everything, ranging from customer credit information and competitor reports to data on internal productivity.

However, this data is not always easy to come by, especially when looking to expand operations overseas. Here, I explain how CEOs can make the most of freely available information sets to ensure their decision making is as informed as possible; whether that’s trading nationally or overseas.

Utilize internal data to your advantage 

When deciding to trade goods and services with overseas partners, or perhaps expand into the territories themselves, businesses often neglect their own internal data to inform their decisions. In the business world, data is primarily used to answer three key questions:

  • How much opportunity is there in the market?
  • What are the challenges of working in that market?
  • How much success, if any, have we had in that market?

If external data is hard to come by, companies should look inwards to answer these questions. For instance;

  • Have leads increased significantly in a certain market without new investment?
  • Has there been an uplift in website transactions or leads from that region? To what pages in particular?
  • Does it take less time from lead-to-sale?
  • Do customers purchase more on average in that region?

This internal data can be invaluable as it provides unique insights that third-party sources can’t provide. Moreover, this data is specific to your business and will help you make a more accurate decision over whether a potential customer base will respond well to your brand.

Conduct competitor research 

Another key piece of data that businesses can use is data from within their own country to inform whether expansion into another territory is a worthwhile endeavor. For example, a business should assess the potential risk of a domestic competitor buying a competitor in the target market, or perhaps the likelihood that a business will move out or reduce its operations in the country.

In the UK, much of this data will be available through Companies House (the British government’s register of businesses currently trading). In the US, this information will be available at a state-by-state level. By looking at the revenue, debt and share price of a business, you’ll be able to assess the likelihood of a competitor moving in or out of a market, and consequently lowering or raising the profitability of trading there.

Moreover, keeping up to date with press coverage of your competitor’s mergers, acquisitions and patent applications will also provide insight into their actions moving forward. While predicting the actions of competitors with 100% accuracy is impossible, conducting regular checks on this data as part of an overall SWOT analysis is advisable.

Hire data analysts to maximize the value of available data 

Even the most complete set of data in the world is useless to a business without the resources to accurately dissect it and extract actionable insights. The NewVantage Partners’ 2019 Big Data and AI Executive Survey, whose participants included c-level technology and business executives from companies such as American Express and General Electric, found that 69% of respondents had not created a data-driven organization and that 53% were not yet treating data as a business asset.

This study underlines the fact that data, even in limited supply, is not being used to its fullest potential. Businesses should be making the most of business and industry data wherever possible to better inform their decision process, which requires hiring specialist data analysts to do so.

Hiring data analysts is by no means easy - many media outlets have highlighted the significant skills gap present especially across North America and Europe. Nevertheless, hiring experts to analyze data is a worthwhile investment that will pay dividends when the analysis helps drive a profitable overseas expansion or international trading partnership.

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