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You've got data - now what? Part 2: Asking the big questions

Economist and data analyst, David Maher, director of Melbourne-based company Right Brain Insights, shares his thoughts on how cloud software is a valuable tool for companies to understand and use critical business data. In his first post, David looked at why you need to invest in data to drive business success, the second discussed how to make that data meaningful in your business. This article is the third in a 5-part series.

Over time, every business accumulates a certain amount of data. If you’re using cloud software such as Xero and WorkflowMax, then you’re likely sitting on a goldmine of it. If properly utilised, this data can be the answer to a successful business. However, of course, there are no answers without questions! 

It was once said by famous philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, that “he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” This quote, without a doubt, also applies to businesses and their livelihood. Think about it… If you continue to ask questions about your business, you are more likely to know how it is tracking and how to solve or prevent any problems in it.

So what questions is a well-functioning business built on? Arguably this may vary by industry and what you’re selling. i.e. an airline vs. a trade services company. For the purpose of this post we’re going to focus on the latter – a trade service business.



Question time

As a data analyst, I work with service businesses to help them gain a greater understanding of where they are currently making a profit, and areas that they could improve. It is my opinion that for a trade service business, or any business selling people’s time, that to start with the focus should initially be on just six questions.  

They are:

  1. Staff time efficiency & effectiveness.  
    Are your staff doing things right and doing the right things?
  2. Job-level budget tracking.
    Are your individual jobs being executed on time and on cost?
  3. Profit.
    How much income and profit does your sales team bring in?
  4. Client-level performance.
    Of all the people we work with who do we actually make (or lose) money on & why?
  5. Time to invoice.
    Is the job completion date the same date the invoice is sent? Why the hell not? You control this. You might have to call the bikies to have them pay, but you can still send the invoice.
  6. What does the future look like?
    Questions 1-5 are past and present focused. But you could extrapolate your future if you know what gross and net margins your jobs run at and you know the income coming in? What happens if your pipeline converts?

What we are doing here is attempting to understand good vs. bad. Simple as that.

Who is a good staff member, a good client, a good product, a good job, a good BDM, a good process – vs. a bad one.

So, we’ve asked the questions, now where do we find the answers?

Having a system that effortlessly provides you with this valuable data is key. The beauty is that a cloud job management system like WorkflowMax is perfectly suited to answer all of these questions (and even their subsequent discussion) – IF – implemented, utilized, and reported correctly.  A job management system will capture all the information, then using reporting, in particular creating custom reports to suit your specific questions, you can immediately access and present this data.


What would it do to your business to see – and I mean physically see – the answers to these questions? What questions do you wish you could answer but don’t feel like you can? What questions keep you up at night? Even better – what one question, if informed, could transform your business?

So you've got data - now what? In the next post we'll take a look at how getting the right advice from an expert can help you achieve even greater results. If you want to find out even more about using data to drive your business, sign up for the FREE webinar below.

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David Maher
An analyst by nature & an economist by training, David has the ability to see & understand numbers that drive the world around us. David has presented as far away as Iceland & lectures on design at RMIT University. His company, Right Brain Insights specialises in helping SMEs use data to clarify their strategic direction & boost their business performance. True story, David once served in the Australian Army, strolled down the cat walk, & sailed multi-million dollar yachts. But at heart, he’s just a kid from the country.

David Maher