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James Watson,  Analytics Sales Manager for General Business at SAP discusses what SMEs should  have on their radar when thinking about analytics for their business

Data is fast becoming the most important business asset of  the 21st Century!  When such  distinguished business leaders as Sir Terry Leahy attribute the success of Tesco to data it’s time to sit up and  take notice. However data in itself is only half the story.  Analytics is the key to unlocking the value  hidden in data and arguably analytics is one of the most game-changing  technologies of recent times.

It is easy to think that high powered analytics is the  preserve of the big corporates, however there is now a much wider range of  solutions allowing SMEs to put analytics at the core of their strategy in order  to gain competitive advantage in an ever crowded marketplace.

So what should SMEs have on their radar when thinking about  analytics for their business?

Access to information

We all know that reacting quickly to business environments  is essential to achieve business growth. With so much customer data at our  finger tips, SMEs need to recognise this as an opportunity and be reactive to  the insights that are available to them.

Analysing trends and behaviours of customers is just one way  that analytics can help SMEs provide a superior customer service and grow  revenue or profits. By recognising individual buying habits and behaviours,  SMEs can provide tailored offers and targeted marketing campaigns. Tactics such  as upselling products or suggesting similar items can make customer experiences  feel more personal; encouraging them to return to you, and not competitors!

Predictive Models

Turning raw and often complex data into actionable insight  is an enormous challenge; but one SMEs should not be afraid of.  At SAP, we enable companies to conduct  descriptive and predictive analysis on standard and big data to both understand  the present and predict the future.  As a  result, SMEs are able to predict immensely valuable information ranging from the  future value of customers to sales forecasts and operational risks.

How can you  differentiate yourself from competitors and spot opportunities ahead of them?

The answer is speed. The quicker a trend or pattern is  recognised, the quicker you can act upon it. Real-time processing  of data means that businesses can move forwards, not backwards. Gartner forecasts that  by 2016, 70% of the most profitable companies will manage their business  processes using real-time predictive analytics.

As organisations expand both locally and globally, having  access to information at their fingertips is key. For example, a car dealership  needs to be able to tap into supplier’s information in real-time to access  sales figures and make more informed decisions about stock availability.

With deployment models such as Managed Cloud as a Service  (MCaaS) available, SMEs are able to quickly implement solutions to meet the  needs of their business.

By acknowledging that analytics holds significant potential  for a multitude of purposes, both for exploiting opportunities and minimising  risks in future events, SMEs can gain a competitive advantage.

Putting analysis of data at the centre of organisational  strategy and ensuring that appropriate skills and technology are in place, will  ensure SMEs are well placed to steer their organisations to future success.

The race is now on to harness data faster and more effectively than competitors.