Turning numbers and words into knowledge

Debbie Mayo-Smith

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Since 2002 I’ve been talking about the importance of databases. From the outside looking in, that is.

Aside from knowing how to work with data in Excel, I have remained uneducated about where data is put to bed at night.

I guess you could say I was focused on the Goldilocks is happy to lie in the baby bear's bed of Excel, Access, static websites and few users theory.

So when I was engaged by Microsoft this week as a speaker for the SME track of their Business Intelligence Summit, you can imagine how bemused my husband was.

Steve is a chief information officer, and I would be the first to agree with him about how "untechnical"  I am. Understanding all that Big Data, SQL server, ERP technology is second nature to him.

But I have not been asked to present on this subject before.

I have been busy researching, looking to understand and find stories about when Goldilocks moves to the mid-sized bed – when better business intelligence is needed and Excel, Access (and comparable software) is no longer sufficient.

The problem is, everywhere I’ve been looking I have found the explanations are too technical. So thank goodness for Steve. His explanation was superb. Pure. Simple. Understandable.

"Why have a computer? Why use Excel? Why keep a list of customers and sales? It’s simply numbers and names. Data."

It is when you can work with the data, visualise it, query part or all of it, that it stops being data and transforms into  information and knowledge.

You can then base your business decisions on this knowledge rather than guesswork.

Here is an example. Let’s say you run a website with an online store. You can look through the data that you have accumulating with visits.

Data is that you have 1000 unique visitors and you also know their operating system. 

Information is that, based on their operating system, 61% accessed it through iOS (iPad and Iphones).

Knowledge is there are certain aspects of your shopping site that don’t render well, or at all, on these devices.

This knowledge enables you to you to make a decision to make the necessary changes. Fast!

While you can handle doing this for 1000 unique visitors in an excel spread sheet, imagine doing it for 10,000 or more.

Since most people are visually oriented, this data is best illustrated graphically, which vividly illustrates the distribution of operating systems.

This is business intelligence, and Business Intelligence software is geared towards allowing you to get to the information – and make decisions – quickly and easily.

It is not just huge companies. Business intelligence can be used by any growing business to spot trends, make decisions and manage costs using real-time data.


Debbie’s personal invitation:

If you are interested in learning how your business can better capture and use your data to improve your business results, why not consider attending the Microsoft Business Insights Summit (it’s complimentary) in Wellington on December 4 and Auckland on December 5.

Find out more now.

Debbie Mayo-Smith works with companies that want more effective staff and management

Check debbie@debbiespeaks.co.nz

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