Technology is bringing sweeping changes to business. Almost every business — even very small ones — will rely on information technology (IT) for some aspects of their operations, such as billing, retaining customer information, managing finances or filing taxes. Many businesses are also increasing their social media outreach. For almost all businesses, enlisting the skills of a data specialist could provide a competitive advantage.

Data contains many insights that may help a business operate more efficiently. The ability to extract actionable insight from raw data enables more effective decision making. It can also drive product and operational decisions and help analyze potential customers, marketing segments, purchasing trends and customer interactions.

One example of a company that bases its decisions on data and analytics modeling, which many believe has contributed in great part to its success, is Google. Fittingly, perhaps, Google also offers analytics tools that can be used by organizations of any size to boost business insights; some are accessible free of charge. Making sense of raw data and using it to strategize can be overwhelming for the time-strapped business owner, however. That's where hiring a specialist comes in.

Experience Is Key

When hiring a data specialist, organizations should ensure that the chosen candidate has skills that allow him or her to successfully manage the data to effectively drive results. A good data specialist should be experienced enough to be able to distill the information to the most pertinent facts.

An experienced data specialist will instinctively know how to identify the most important information and how to respond to results seen from analyzing data. That will help him or her prepare meaningful reports that provide effective insight for management. Otherwise, important nuggets of information that would provide operational insight or competitive advantage could be lost, creating more inefficiencies and hampering the business.

The New Organizing Institute offers a brief guide to hiring a data specialist. One key tidbit? Test the candidate prior to hire, to ensure that his or her skills really are on par with what he or she claims and what's required for the job.

Should You Invest?

Not every small business requires the services of a dedicated specialist. Many early stage startups have more need of generalists and young talent that will be able to competently tackle most data-related tasks. Even midsized organizations looking for fast growth may not need the services of a full-time specialist, particularly because specialists tend to be costly. In such cases, organizations should consider whether they might be better off using the services of consultants or investing in professional development for existing staff.

Data is the lifeblood of many businesses today and can provide valuable insights to help drive the business forward. Whether in-house or on a contract basis, an experienced data specialist can help a wide variety of businesses add value to their operations and help them achieve their growth ambitions.

Tags: data management data specialist Security