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For some, simply skimming over material with words like ‘systems analysis’ or ‘business statistical data’ causes eyes to glaze over as interest and attention vaporize into thin air like a wisp of smoke. But these business buzzwords are not so nebulous in their foundations. Analytical data and use of Big Data actually permeates our everyday lives; take your GPS system, for example, guiding you through your morning commute. As you drive along, the system is constantly sorting and sifting through vast quantities of information, detecting the amount of traffic along a particular route, thereby predicting (based upon available data) alternative routes to save you time in traffic. But how do businesses use this? Well, what if you were a coffee shop that just happened to be located on the same route that a GPS user takes to work? Wouldn’t you want to be aware of that information to provide more targeted marketing to these customers? These bits of business analytics data come in the form of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), just one avenue through which one can garner business analytics data.
In the business world there are many ways to gather and apply business analytics data, and while one of the most obvious is the above consumer-centric GPS/GIS example, one of the the more underlooked but equally important sources of data is your quality management system. With the right software, you can analyze your own internal processes to fine tune your business.
Let’s look at a few situations where quality management software can help glean that nugget of essential data.
Accurate and Automated Reporting without Human Error
Back in the day, before the prolific spread of modern technology, documents were all hand written and gathered from hours upon hours of studying sales numbers, marketing surveys, and customer feedback. The data collected was then written into reports that led to new initiatives that centered on improving customer service, creating timelier deliveries, and predicting market trends used to benefit business as well as gain a larger customer base. The problem is that a human can only do so much, so areas from which people can manually “mine” data had to be carefully selected based on how useful that data was projected to be. Not only that, but even the best humans make mistakes--take doctors, for example, who actually misdiagnose patients between 5%-15% of the time! While too much data can bog down analysis, accurately finding that trend (or diagnosing the symptoms of a problem) you never thought existed can make or break your company, and even save lives. Fortunately, with today’s technology, we can enjoy the luxury of software that rarely errs and never sleeps, mining all available points of data, and analyzing each bit of it so that you don’t have to. Imagine a system that generates sales reports which intuitively predict where improvements are needed, based upon benchmarks or standards that are failing to be met--all delivered to you automatically, so that you don’t have to lift a finger. Just remember that as data becomes easier to access for you, so does it become easier to access for criminals and competitors. Storing and securing your business analytics data is just as important as gathering it.
Improving and Maintaining Customer Satisfaction
It is critical not only to maintain your loyal customer base, but also to constantly look at new and/or improved ways to meet and even exceed your customer’s expectations. How is this accomplished? Imagine that after weeks of stellar performance and great consumer reviews, your company is plagued by a slew of dissatisfied customers. Fortunately, your quality management software has detected that in one of your service areas, the average wait-time to complete your service for a customer has doubled. Furthermore, the data shows that the increased wait-times coincide with the hire of a new manager at this location. Not only can you now remedy the problem, you’ve also gained valuable insight--in this case, lower wait-times equals higher customer satisfaction! While this is usually a no-brainer, it serves to show that when small trends are analyzed, big realizations may come from it. For a more “real life” example, one need look no further than the world of support and maintenance in the IT world, where analysis of pricing structure and after-service satisfaction-rates allows third parties to beat out OEM prices by up to 70% in certain cases. Management software is able to gather the essential material to analyze and make suggestions on your company’s customer requirements and related processes, as well as customer approved sources and acceptance criteria.
Vigilance in Compliance and Identifying Inefficiency: Analysis is an essential component in cost-reduction as well as in identifying risk while simultaneously maintaining compliance. Much like a top-notch business consultant, good QMS can provide data and analysis that allows you to cut out bloat and inefficiency, as was the case with Royal Bluff Orchard. After moving away from pen and paper data entry and switching to an automated system, they realized that not only were they losing money due to human error in by-hand calculations, but that their supervisors could become more efficient at a rate of 15 hours per week, equating to $20,000 dollars a year. Of course, dealing with and predicting problems before they cost you money is the aim of any respectable quality management software. If you are in the manufacturing industry, putting a system in place that maintains accuracy and adheres to a specific set of standards would help keep up quality across the board, and would immediately notify you if there were ever a snag in internal production. Imagine this type of a system catching a pressure gage before it falls below an acceptable threshold, successfully avoiding an on-site injury or an industry-wide recall. Nothing damages a business more than a tarnished reputation for creating inferior or faulty products. Software that automatically updates for regulatory compliance criteria and maintains good manufacturing practices will help keep your company safe, productive, and above water.
At the end of the day, keeping your business productive by delivering quality goods and services in not only a timely manner but also a cost-efficient one, will help maintain your good name within your industry. With the backing of a loyal and satisfied customer base you can feed that all-important relationship by systematically analyzing feedback, and using the data to make improvements--many of which you probably didn’t even know you needed.
image courtesy Ken Teegardin via Flickr
When Business Analytics Data Meets Quality Management Software