Increased access to data is driving change in our economy.

The days of the ‘too-big-to-fail’ mentality are numbered thanks to emerging technologies that are making data accessible for all – giving businesses of all shapes, sizes and locations the insight they need to better compete in a globalised market.

The North West is home to some of the UK’s highest growth companies – all making large contributions to the UK economy in terms of jobs and money. This was recently reflected in the Sunday Time’s Fast Track 100 list which featured eight of the North West’s fastest growing privately owned businesses.

However, as a North West-based business owner myself, I know that the region’s business leaders need to be focusing on tech investment to help augment their operations and give them the insights the need to stay competitive in an ever changing global market.  

There is a clear correlation emerging between the investment businesses make in advanced technologies and their growth. In particular, those investments being made by companies in advanced technologies that make data-driven insights more accessible – technologies including business intelligence (BI) and data visualisation tools – are yielding huge growth.

Conclusions from the recently published Tech Impact ’19 report tell us that deploying BI and data visualisation has the power to drive an average of 24 per cent more business sales, other reports also highlight that BI adoption is lingering at around 30 per cent of enterprises.

Many may think that BI and data visualisation tools are the preserve of larger multinational organisations; however, they’d be wrong. The digital age is making our world an increasingly smaller place to do business – as a result even smaller businesses need to be responsive to global trends or face becoming obsolete. BI and data visualisation tools are the necessary means for them to do this.

But, how can other, perhaps smaller or not as tech-savvy, companies catch up? First and foremost, you need to understand where the biggest area for impact is in your business.  

This software can be used to identify new opportunities, stay up-to-date on market trends or improve customer interaction. Businesses that are able to identify patterns and trends within data are, of course, better positioned to take advantage of opportunities and mitigate threat. Ultimately, it makes for better operational and strategic decision making.  

How you use BI and data visualisation will be dependent on the sectors in which you operate, the target market you are serving and your business objectives. Some businesses may even find greater returns from investing in more specialised data platforms - this saving them the need to employ specialist personnel.

Before investing in new technology, you need to select the right platform for you and your business.  You can do this by identifying what areas you want to strengthen and link it with your overarching business objectives, which should come from our point earlier about identifying impact. For example, do you want the ability to explore data more easily, or are you more focused on the technical or analytical side of things?  

Also consider what level of service will work for you. Whether you require a dedicated resource to maintain and translate the data, or do you have access to those skills in-house, for instance. For a long-term growth plan, it is worth considering investing in a new team member to manage the software.  

When used right, BI and data visualisation tools have the ability to unlock and showcase data in a way that can transform business decisions. These decisions will not only pave the way for company growth, but also open doors to new markets and customer segments. In fact, given the value of data to modern businesses, Gartner predicts that, by the end of 2020, global revenue in the BI software market will grow to $22.8b.  

As a result, businesses of all kinds in the North West need to be thinking seriously about an investment in BI and data visualisation platforms which could be the difference between opportunity and obsolescence.