Small Business Owners: Get the Data Analysis Practice You Need

Geographic information systems (GIS) technology has become a fundamental tool for executives at companies large or small to better run their businesses. By using a flexible concept of location, which can mean much more than physical geography, even small business owners and managers can pull together combinations of internal customer and operational information with external data on demographics, trends, and other factors.

The power of modern GIS tools allows companies to tighten transportation and logistics, uncover market opportunities, predict changes in local markets, and identify important patterns that can better inform managerial decisions and help deliver competitive advantages. However, the types of GIS tools available to SMBs are relatively new and sophisticated. Owners and managers should seek the knowledge and experience needed, as they might find in an American Sentinel contemporary MBA program, to put them to fruitful and correct use.

One issue that occurs when tools gain widespread availability with sophisticated power is the ease with which people can misuse them and cause more damage than benefit. A simple example is the spreadsheet. Most managers have used such software. And yet, a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel has extensive and sophisticated capabilities that require more than casual knowledge.

For example, it is easy to take a run of historic data, maybe weekly sales figures, and create a graph. It is just as easy to add a trend line the projects the results forward a few time periods into the future. Projections are important in analyzing data, but they are an area where you can easily go wrong.

You might choose a form of mathematical projection that is badly matched to the underlying pattern of data. A straightforward linear regression may give a distorted representation if there is a lot of variability in the sales figures, so the projections could be misleading. Or you could use a projection to justify a strategic decision that goes in a completely new direction for the company, for which existing internal data is not predictive at all.

GIS analysis is far more complex than automated predictive analysis on a spreadsheet. It takes trial and error, with help and feedback from others, to learn how to effectively and safely put the technology to use.

To get an adequate and practical grasp of GIS, you really need a practice environment in which you can try using GIS data before you spend money on a real business. One approach is American Sentinel’s contemporary MBA online program, with an emphasis on using GIS systems. The program is a platform that lets you exchange ideas with students, coaches and faculty in a safe environment. You have an actual test in which to develop and explore your command of these new information tools. And that can mean the difference between results that look good and ones that can give you the edge you need.