In the business world, managers and executives make important decisions every day. Making the wrong decision could cost millions of dollars. To maximize their chances of making the best decision, they need to rely on a mix of experience, intuition, and good analytics. According to a Bloomberg article, 55% of respondents claimed that their current use of analytics has reduced their costs.
In addition to reducing costs, using analytics helps understand customer requirements, helps improve process throughput and quality, helps streamline processes, helps prioritize business needs, and provides other benefits. In my work, I look at numbers almost every day since those numbers drive the decisions we make for our clients. It took me a while to learn the skillset, but it was well worth it. It took thousands of hours of capturing data, manipulating data, and analyzing data for me to become extremely competent.
If you have data that tells you that you are spending money on multiple products that do the same thing but at different costs, you can shift your spending over to one of the lower cost items to save money. If you have data that tells you what your customer preferences are, you can create a better product for your target market. If you have data that shows where the bottlenecks and inefficiencies are in your company, you can direct focus and resources to fix it. Not only can data tell you what your current issues are, it can predict what will happen in the future. You can look at historical trends to predict future events. Having good data and the right analytical tools to apply to that data can be the difference between success and failure.
The most basic analytical tool is (aside from a calculator, pen, and pencil) is Microsoft Excel. Excel is basically a giant calculator and data capture mechanism. It allows you to make calculations, model scenarios, build charts, run formulas, and much more. Almost any office job will require that you have some Excel capabilities. Positions that are heavier on the analytics will require that you have mastered more advanced features. I have written a book that shows you how to prepare for interviews that require heavier Excel use.
Microsoft Access is another common software in the business world. Access is a database software that allows you to store millions of line items or records. You can then use Access to massage and manipulate those records. For example, I can have a database that stores all my tennis customers, their addresses, and purchases. Suppose I have another database that stores tennis club memberships. I can use Access to find the members that exist in both databases.
There are countless other software packages out there that businesses use to run all sorts of analyses. It is important to keep an open mind and be willing to learn the different tools that are out there. Reach out to people around the office that are experts. Google for resources, buy additional books, or take a course from one of my recommended educational resources to help you learn. Once you have learned the tools, be sure to look at the story that the data is telling. This story is extremely valuable and will help you demonstrate your business acumen and make better decisions.
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