Analytics in sales and marketing tend to get all the buzz. After all, improving top line revenue is the lifeblood of a company. But improving bottom line margin through cost savings is equally important, especially during economic downturns.
When people hear “cost savings”, their mind often goes to dark places: layoffs, salary reductions, forced retirements. But in most companies, while labor is significant, it is by no means the only cost. Companies typically have many opportunities to improve their bottom line without impacting employment or morale. Analytics can help by identifying areas for improvement and determining effective solutions.
So without further ado, here are 5 ways you can improve your company’s operations.
1. Increase personal and workgroup productivity
The various minutiae that individuals and teams deal with on a daily basis are like a tax, or a drag, on their ability to get meaningful work done. From conducting research and monitoring web trends to processing emails and managing calendars, relatively simple tasks can consume a shocking amount of time for many professionals.
While we all can’t have human personal assistants, we now have access to an increasingly impressive cadre of automated assistants. From Taisk, a general purpose AI assistant, to specialized software like GMass for email marketing management and X.ai for calendering, we can now offload the mundane so that we can focus on more exciting and high-value work.
2. Improve access to relevant information
Did you know the average knowledge worker spends a whopping 30% of their time searching for information, according to an IDC study? Whether looking for an internal how-to for completing a common task or a client deliverable to reuse as a starting point for a new document, access to information is a critical need that often goes unmet.
Analytics can help in a number of ways. Enterprise search engines - think the Google of internal content - allow users to search for documents, presentations, even emails from a simple search bar. These systems used to be expensive and laborious to implement, but today most products including Microsoft Office now include search functionality out of the box and often just needs enabled by your IT department.
3. Streamline and automate your customer service and help desks
Your service desks are likely one of the company’s larger expenses. Multiple shifts, high turnover, handling variable call volume and spikes: it’s a significant but unsung management challenge. You’re likely already using basic call center metrics: first call resolution, time to answer, analyst performance. (If you’re not, start doing so immediately!)
Beyond the basic metrics, there is a wealth of data you can use to further optimize your service desk. Analytics can help mine your knowledge base, call logs, and even convert your recordings into searchable text, leading to better and more nuanced insights into quality and the needs of your user base.
A conversation about service desk cannot be complete without Chatbots. While this technology can be intimidating (for management and employees alike), modern chatbots can quickly learn and become effective thanks to advances in AI. Standalone products like Bold 360 use natural language processing to feel more natural than the call-tree bots of the past. And heavy hitters like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Microsoft now have built-in chatbot capabilities.
4. Evaluate profitability of new and existing clients and projects
Financial analysis used to involve massive IT projects and boring plain-text reports. Analysts would spend upwards of 80% of their time just managing and massaging data, leaving them precious little time to do their real job of analyzing for insights.
That has all changed with the advent of self-service analytics tools like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI. Finance can now quickly turn out sophisticated dashboards and data applications that help companies answer key questions: what segments, industries, or geographies are most profitable? What is the likely profitability of this new project? It’s not just about better reporting. These tools build in sophisticated forecasting and machine learning tools to better segment and understand your business.
5. Improve employee utilization
Employee productivity is one side of the coin: utilization, or their application to important client or internal projects, is just as important. But many cycles go wasted by employees waiting for work, or being assigned to work that doesn’t fully utilize their skills. Staffing projects used to be a manual, laborious, and often thankless job, mired in spreadsheets out of date the moment you hit save.
But no more. The same tools mentioned above for searching knowledge and analyzing financial records can be turned to the problem of optimizing utilization. Products like ServiceNow have built-in demand management capabilities, and internal job matching sites akin to the freelancer ecosystem Upwork make it easier for project coordinators and potential team members to connect.
This is just a taste of what is possible. Stay tuned for other opportunities to optimize your operations and improve your business’s bottom line.
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Matt Coatney is a technology executive, entrepreneur, advisor, author, and speaker focused on bringing advanced technologies to market in the fields of artificial intelligence, automation, future of work, data analytics, cloud computing, and digital content. His work has appeared in TED, MIT, and O'Reilly.
His newest book, The Human Cloud - How Today's Changemakers Use Artificial Intelligence and the Freelance Economy to Transform Work, with Matthew Mottola and published by HarperCollins Leadership, launches late 2020.
His e-course The Business of AI is available now on O’Reilly.
To automate common productivity tasks, check out Taisk, the AI-powered virtual assistant.