Rapid advances in technology in the last few decades have put businesses under pressure to keep up with the times. Procrastination in replacing outdated technology may mean losing valuable time while their competitors get all the sales. Upgrades in technology or the total replacement of systems in the organization are costly and tend to drain the company’s resources, be they financial or human. Times are changing, however, and there is much that a company can do internally with a strong team of people with expertise in mining, analyzing, and assessing their business data. With the ease of access to large amounts of data and the ability to organize it into meaningful formats for specific business applications, organizations can efficiently manage their resources and performance.
Basic systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relations management (CRM) can be bought and customized to cater to specific needs within the company, storing the resulting data in large databases that are relatively easy to access. These systems facilitate the daily operations of the company: recording transactions, maintaining stock levels, analyzing sales figures, and tracking financial information, all utilizing the latest cloud-based technology and database management tools.
Having systems in place is important when it comes to efficiency and accuracy; however, it doesn’t stop there. Effective utilization of the information produced by these systems involves employing a team of IT and business professionals to manage and interrogate the data and sort it into a format that can be used to analyze past performance, manage current transactions, and predict future scenarios. IT specialists and business analysts team up to mine the data specific to the business needs, clean the data, and make it available to management in the form of reports, graphs, and forecasts.
Sophisticated visualization tools provide senior management with an accurate overview of the information that is vital to the successful running of the business. Inaccurate or outdated information can mean the downfall of an organization.
Role of the business analyst
The role of the business analyst (BA) has become an essential one in medium- to large corporations, as they analyze the company’s business needs, propose cost-effective and innovative solutions, manage projects and system implementations, train staff, and solve problems. They work in conjunction with IT personnel, dealing with large quantities of data, analyzing, sorting, and grouping it until they arrive at a suitable dataset for the project at hand. Besides having strong analytical skills, BAs also need critical thinking and decision-making skills, as well as a strong bent for persuasion, as they often have to coax management into making important decisions that affect the whole company and cost money.
Business analysts review the systems and procedures in place within the organization, conduct feasibility studies, interview the various key personnel and stakeholders in the business, analyze information, create predictive models, and propose changes to the procedures or systems.
BAs are innovative as they strive to solve business problems or facilitate brain-storming sessions to encourage management to make informed decisions on the way forward. They need good business acumen and strong written and verbal communication skills as they present statistics, submit reports on their findings, propose changes to existing procedures, manage projects, and submit progress reports.
They are required to interact with people on all levels, including reporting to company directors, interviewing people in all areas of the business, and working closely with their colleagues in IT. They need to be aware of regulatory requirements in relation to the type of business environment they are working in and have strong financial and business knowledge, particularly in the areas of budgeting, costing, planning, forecasting, variance analysis, and pricing, as well as an awareness of what is available in the way of analytical and reporting tools such as Agile Business Analysis, Six Sigma, and others.
Being organized as they juggle more than one project at once is just one of a business analyst’s coping skills. Managing their time efficiently, setting boundaries, and keeping them while diplomatically deferring less important problems helps the BA survive in an environment where they are looked up to and frequently asked for advice and assistance. Of course, taking care of their health and fitness is another coping skill that should not be overlooked. A successful business analyst needs to take time out and create a balance between their work and personal life to avoid burnout.
There is never a dull moment in the life of a business analyst. As technology evolves at a steady rate and corporations face new challenges on a regular basis, the role of the business analyst has become increasingly important. An online Master’s in Business Analytics with St. Bonaventure University would place you in a competitive position in the job market, enhancing your career prospects and providing you with the skills to meet the challenges presented by this dynamic work environment. Their course develops students’ knowledge of a variety of programming and analytic tools intrinsic to business analytics, including data visualization, data warehousing, and predictive analytics.
Improving company sales using data science techniques
Sales-oriented companies are constantly striving to maintain positive results in highly competitive environments. To remain competitive in their particular niche, sales organizations analyze previous sales statistics, monitor stock levels and pricing, analyze their customer base, employ various strategies to attract new customers, evaluate their product range and diversify where necessary, set targets, and market their products.
Accuracy is essential in any environment where data is being utilized for reporting purposes. When starting out on a project, the business analyst interviews all stakeholders and draws up a specification for the extraction of data. One or more databases are interrogated, and the data is collected and categorized according to the requirements. Any inconsistencies in the data are subjected to further analysis, and decisions are made as to whether the data should be included in the data set or not. Analysis of data sometimes highlights problem areas that the business analyst needs to address with the relevant personnel.
Various tools exist for use in the analysis process, or alternatively, the IT department provides a suite of algorithms to extract and sort the data into a format that can be used by the business. Algorithms are software programs or applications that apply a specific set of rules for selecting and grouping data.
Once a dataset has been created and tested, the BA can use existing applications or create new algorithms for identifying patterns in historical sales statistics, forecasting sales for future periods, setting sales targets, and analyzing historical sales results in relation to specific marketing strategies used.
Data collection has become more sophisticated and accurate, eliminating the need for guesswork in the forecasting process. With a focus on sales and marketing strategies, managers can make informed decisions with confidence based on the effective analysis and reporting skills of their business analysts.
Finding new customers and retaining existing ones
Statistics have shown that improving relationships with existing customers is more profitable than constantly striving to find new ones. This doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t look for new customers, but rather that they should not lose sight of, or ignore, their existing customers. Improving relationships by offering special deals and enhancing marketing strategies not only serves to retain existing customers but also intensifies the buying experience for new customers.
Data analytics helps sales teams identify who their regular customers are, determine their customers’ preferences, and determine which marketing strategies have proven successful in the past. Based on their findings, sales teams can identify their target market more easily.
Business analysts are in the know when it comes to the implementation of sophisticated forecasting algorithms. They are instrumental in cataloging data and presenting it in a format that helps sales managers predict future sales. Forecasting methods are based on historical sales patterns, seasonal trends, and current or future risks, such as the political climate or supply shortages. BAs utilize extensive research methods when analyzing sales data to ensure improved accuracy of the predictions.
A churn rate in sales terms is the rate at which customers stop buying products from the organization. For a company to achieve a reasonable growth rate, its new customers should outnumber customers lost to competitors.
Companies need to monitor their churn rate and act accordingly when faced with an increase in churn statistics. BAs provide analytical tools that will help management determine the reasons for the loss of customers. This may be due to poor customer service, inefficient after-sales service, problems in the production or acquisition process, inferior products, or uncompetitive pricing. Analyzing the sales churn rate serves to highlight problems in specific areas and presents an opportunity to adjust the current strategies.
Churn rates are not always a true reflection of company or product performance. A decline in customer activity may come just after the end of a promotion, so a drop in sales figures may mean the loss of new customers who were only attracted by the special deal and not the loss of long-term customers. Newer companies are more likely to have fluctuating churn rates as it takes time to establish a customer base, and churn rates would also vary according to the type of company and product being sold.
A sales pipeline is an important tool for businesses as it portrays a sales funnel and the positions within the funnel where the deals are located, where in the funnel there is little to no activity, and which sales activities are bringing in the most revenue.
Sales pipelines can be captured in Excel or Google Sheets. For larger companies, a customer relationship management (CRM) system is ideal, either standalone or integrated with the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in use by the company. CRM systems allow sales personnel to link deals to customer information and to move deals around the funnel as they progress. Sales managers can monitor deals and sales team progress.
Business analysts can put algorithms or reporting mechanisms in place that help sales teams identify prospective customers in terms of profitability and engagement levels, allowing managers to effectively utilize the information provided by the pipeline.
Having a unique sales proposition (USP) is important for improving the competitiveness of the product and the company. USPs are directed at the customer’s most important needs by highlighting the qualities of the product that make it unique and viable in terms of value and usefulness.
Analysis of sales data in conjunction with comparisons with other products on the market enables companies to determine the qualities that make their own product unique and what it is that customers are looking for.
By collecting and analyzing data from customers, business analysts provide information to the marketing team to aid them in creating personalized marketing strategies for specific customer groups.
Targeted marketing strategies
Targeted marketing enables companies to focus their efforts on specific customer groups, thereby saving marketing costs. Marketing to one specific group means higher conversion rates and consistent growth. Data analytics provides companies with customer information and identifies segments for direct targeting and the use of sound marketing strategies.
This article would not be complete if we did not briefly mention marketing and sales on social media. Social media advertising is suitable mainly for smaller businesses; however, many organizations are advertising their products on various social media platforms. Utilizing this kind of marketing would depend entirely on management, their feelings on the subject, and the type of product being marketed. Analyzing data on social media platforms can be very useful for finding out what customers are likely to buy your product and what their preferences are, and there are also statistics available for the business analyst to interrogate and form decisions.
It is quite possible that sales figures have dropped because of one or more products whose quality is not quite up to scratch. Customers very often don’t complain, particularly if the product is inexpensive and easily obtained elsewhere. They will just go elsewhere to source their product. Whether or not customers have reported an inferior product, business analysts are likely to notice a decline in sales figures where one or more specific products are involved, and they will delve deeper into the data to ascertain the reason for the lack of sales. When dealing with technical products such as computer equipment, products change all the time, and existing stock becomes redundant very quickly. However, if this is not the case, the business analyst needs to investigate and get involved in quality assurance.
Quality assurance is particularly important in a manufacturing environment, and there should be procedures in place to examine each step in the process. Business analysts will be familiar with the manufacturing process and, in fact, should be involved in checking the processes to make sure they are still relevant to the product and producing satisfactory checks.
The business analyst may suggest some modifications to either the product or the quality assurance procedures.
Successful companies and savvy business analysts go hand in hand
As can be seen, business analysts are key players in successful organizations. Their strong business knowledge, analytical and critical thinking skills, and a natural inclination towards leadership place them in a position of respect within their company. Being a business analyst in a high-powered organization means ongoing learning and development as they tackle the realities and challenges presented by the world of commerce and strive to keep up with the ever-changing methodologies and increasingly sophisticated options available to businesses.