Information is power, but it is also much more than simply that. It is the first principle of business, and as such, it must form the foundation of all your efforts. Of course, you definitely need to know what your competitors are capable of, but in doing so, never forget that you must also know yourself. What are you and your business capable of? The business owner who embraces both aspects of information as power can out-compete even a significantly larger company with much greater resources at its disposal.
It used to be the case that storage was expensive. Believe it or not, there was a time when hard drive storage was one of the most expensive components of a computer. Those days are long gone, and storage is not only incredibly cheap, it’s also readily available and more can easily be added even when existing storage begins to reach capacity.
If you’re not doing it already, then effective immediately, you should begin tracking and measuring every aspect of your business you can think to track and measure. Even if you have no immediate plans to use the data you start to collect, save it. Remember, information is power, and nearly every piece of data you collect can be used, either to make your business run faster, better, and more efficiently, or as a weapon against your competition.
Collection Is Only The First Step
Having access to data is meaningless by itself. It’s a great beginning, because without it, you’re exactly nowhere, but until and unless you can use it for some specific purpose, it’s just collecting digital dust. Once you have it, you need to put it into a format you can use in decision making, and/or structure it so as to give yourself a macro-level view of the inner workings of your company. To that end, your IT department is your next step.
Sit down with a Project Manager and have a serious discussion about the shape of an app for your company that can take the data you’re collecting and display it onto a virtual dashboard. What would you want to see? What would be your biggest priority? What would be nice to have but non-critical? Is there anything you’re not currently interested in seeing or using? These discussions may lead you to an app that already exists that you can simply drop your data into. The good news is that there are some of those out there, already in existence. Or, it could lead you down the path of having something custom built for you and your company.
There Are No Right Answers
Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Using something “off the shelf” is low cost and fast to implement, but may not “do” everything you want it to do. Building something custom bears higher up front costs, but at the end of the day, you’ll wind up with exactly the app you wanted. Either way, you’ll have data in a format you can use to begin planning how to shape and mold your business to move you from where you are right now to where you want to be.
It all starts with the data. Nothing happens until you start measuring.