In our increasingly digitised world, people often talk about the power of intelligent data usage. More and more, we hear good news (or at least big growth) stories from the likes of Google and Amazon; and infamous tales, such as that of Cambridge Analytica, who used vast bundles of data to influence democratic polls.

It would be natural for a small- to mid-sized business to feel hopelessly behind the curve, which only huge organisations or multi-millions in investment can get in front of. But there is a great deal of value in making small steps into this world of data. The greatest gift that the digital present has to offer is ease of access. It’s a road anyone can walk.

You don’t have to be a data giant

David would not have beaten Goliath in an arm wrestle. Rather, success depends on getting into a position that suits you. The advantage that smaller companies have with data systems is that they can be nimble. They can start with small steps, build from the ground up, and be dynamic when things change.

If you are struggling to gain valuable information from your data, the first step is not a massive machine-learning algorithm, or the latest AI tool. Artificial Intelligence is really good at looking at things from a perspective humans can’t comprehend, but with people-focussed businesses, that probably isn’t your first concern.

Before diving into the depths, try skimming the surface. Make sure you’ve asked the most pertinent questions: Where are your clients? What interests do they share? How many different types of client do you have? When and where are your best opportunities this year? What are you doing differently this year to improve on the last?

Avoid digitising for the sake of it

If you digitise a problematic real-world scenario, you are likely to end up with a digital version of the same problems. The digital world isn’t inherently better, but it can offer a platform for improvement to happen.

When setting out a digitisation project, it is important to properly understand the issue you’re trying to fix, or which opportunities the process is going to offer. If you know where you are headed, you can make every step count along the way.

Digitisation, by its very nature has a flexible endpoint

This is not to say your journey ought to be predictable. Digitisation is flexible, by its very nature, and your endpoint might change before you reach it. A digitisation process will present new opportunities along the way, and the result may not be exactly what was envisaged in the beginning.

Embrace this mobility. Plan checkpoints where you can review the process and notice new turnings. Even if now isn’t the time to explore a different road, make sure you have a system to record these opportunities, which can then be developed when appropriate.

It is easy to be distracted by the noise of future trends and inventions, but making apparently small, incremental improvements now is the best way to shape your future. Every step matters, and it’s never too late to set off.

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