How Do I Collect Data?

C

ollecting data properly can be the difference between having structured, easily understandable information that can help you make a profit – and having a headache.  

I’m sure that many of us have been in the situation where we have spent hours collecting relevant information about our customers, or stock levels, or temperature in our warehouse, with the best intentions in the world. However, without proper planning, this can quickly become a time-consuming process, with no clear way to then use the data collected.

So, when figuring out how to collect your data, it is important to keep in mind what the end goal is. If you’re looking to answer specific questions, then you need to not only collect the data relevant to them, but also ensure you structure the data in a way that lets you distinguish the answers. Let’s look at a simple question -  

Question - “Which of my stores are showing the highest profit margins in 2020?”

Now this is a relatively common question for a business to have, but one that can have a high number of confusing factors. In terms of the data, you would probably want to record shop income and losses, and from there, calculate the exact profit. But if you want to drill down into specifics, there’s a lot more to consider.

First, you need to remember to record which shop the data correlates to, and the time period the data has been recorded from. In this case, that should be relatively simple, and technically answers the question above. Due to the nature of the question, we know we need to collect quantitative data, (specifically numerical), which will let us know how to record it as we progress.  

It also makes sense to think whether we need to understand the question further. If we’re recording the data to know profits, we likely could figure out the profit margins per item sold, which would be very useful. From this, we could figure out customer preferences and item popularity, which would inform us about what to keep selling, and what to drop.  

However, in this case we need to think more about how to record the data. If each shop sells very similar stock, and you’re looking at data across the entire year, this could get very confusing very quickly, and take a long time to turn into something useful. Further, if you’re looking to then truly compare your profits by item, per shop, you may have to account for differences in shop size that may influence the results.  

So, in total, looking at this one question we should make sure that we record -  

  • Shop identification
  • Dates
  • Stock costs per item
  • Stock profits per item
  • Stock sold
  • Shop total expenses
  • Shop total profit

That’s suddenly quite a lot to keep track of and could get messy quite quickly if you’re not careful with how you’re recording that data.  

So how can you record it? Most people are aware of general use programs such as Microsoft Excel, which are exceedingly useful for this type of work. You can quickly record data into a predefined table, and if you have thought-out how-to structure your data, this can very easily work in an instance such as this. However, this can be a very manual process, and if different users record data in a slightly different format, you may still run into difficulties. Still, using Excel can allow you to easily then work with other programs from the Microsoft Suite, such as Microsoft BI, to really make some interesting data analysis possible.

In contrast, there is a wealth of software out there that is much more specific, such as POS systems like EPOS or Salesforce, that are designed to help you keep track of your items sold, and often, they will help you analyse your data as well! If you’re trying to answer a relatively common question, such as the one referred to here, these can save you a lot of time and effort and prevent any mistakes in your data analysis.  

It’s always worth considering what data to record, what structure you need to record it in, and seeing if there are any existing programs that can help make your life easier. If you need any help with this, please feel free to contact us at any time!

 

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