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Hattons MD: We saved 60 hours per week by overcoming ‘data paralysis’

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Becoming more internet-oriented inevitably gives businesses more data, but as the MD of Hattons Model Railways attests, this doesn’t always mean it is being used.

Richard Davies tells InternetRetailing that the company decided to overhaul its processes after realising it had been spending an “awful lot of time harvesting and collecting data, not responding to it.”

The deluge of data meant that staff were working hard at inputting data into spreadsheets but finding nothing meaningful was coming from it.

“One team had 17 individual tabs in their operations spreadsheet.”

The company has recently begun using Google Data Studio, which can be programmed to pull data from different sources and create meaningful reports that allow the company to make “data-driven decisions”.

Now it has been able to purge dozens of spreadsheets and save up to 60 hours per week, says Davies. Some of this is managerial time.

For example, the operations and finance director now has a dashboard that brings in data from finance, warehouse management systems and email. He can make more accurate forecasts about upcoming labour requirements.

Marketing has one compiling data from the likes of Facebook, Google Analytics and YouTube.

Overall, the company now understands more about the customer journey, uniting sources of data about what’s happening on third party websites.

“One of things it’s helped us do is find the time to recognise a period’s performance. We were on the back foot.”

Davies has recently posted a job ad on LinkedIn for somebody who can help with analysing the data in a strategic way but says that the system is so simple that little additional expertise is needed on a day-to-day basis.

The adoption of the system is in some ways a testament to the agility of small businesses. As Davies says, he doesn’t have an office but sits in an open-plan office alongside customer experience, systems, marketing and buying staff. Davies himself evaluated the different options.

“Some people say working like that will prevent us from growing to a certain size, but I think it helps us scale. You can make decisions and adapt the entire system.”

Not only is the team at Hattons now calmer, but the whole business is more well-informed. As Davies says, the company now has its “house in order”.

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