Big data isn’t just the realm of big business. According to HubSpot, the average small or medium business (SMB) manages 47.81 terabytes of data. If you printed all that data out it would be the equivalent to one and a half billion pages!

But what do you do with that data? If you’re like most SMBs, not much. Why is that?

Capability, Affordability, and Knowledge Gaps

First, there’s a capability gap. Most businesses use antiquated methods like paper and manual processes to collect, track, and store information. This leads to delays and lost insights. For example, paperwork can easily get lost, pertinent information may not captured, and by the time that data has been re-keyed into another system and turned into a useful chart, valuable time has been wasted and errors introduced. Because any data captured only has a half-life of 30 minutes, its very worth has probably diminished.

Then there’s the knowledge gap. Many SMBs aren’t sure what to do with data once they’ve collected it, often because they’re too focused on day-to-day business operations. Finally, there’s the affordability gap. Retaining a data scientist to mine data or hiring a firm to build a costly bespoke solution is rarely an option.

Turn Piles of Data into Actionable Insights – Automatically

Aggregating business data and gleaning actionable intelligence for smaller businesses doesn’t have to be pricey or difficult. You don’t need to be an Excel whiz and you don’t need to hire a big team. There are tools that can take the data you collect and turn it into valuable business insights – one of these is GoCanvas.

An easy-to-use cloud-based mobile platform, GoCanvas provides a powerful solution that is very affordable and simple to get started. Giving SMBs and a surprising number of enterprises the tools they need to migrate commonly used paper processes to an app on a smart device. Using a platform like GoCanvas across the business means that richer intelligence information can be derived from digitizing purchase orders, inventory reports, health and safety checklists, contracts, and so on.

Start with the Basics

Consider the humble timesheet. With the GoCanvas service, SMBs can leverage the platform to boost productivity and get powerful reporting capabilities. For example, when a worker inputs their hours, that information can be shared between departments and even linked into other solutions such as QuickBooks. Now teams can monitor when employees submit their timesheets, their total time worked, and more. The result? Quicker processing and better analysis. Data can also be pulled into business intelligence tools like Microsoft Power BI or Sisense for further mining and insights.

Move Beyond Point Solutions

While many SMBs use apps to track time and manage expenses, these tools are typically point solutions – they do one thing well and not much else. Rather than engage 3-4 different vendor solutions for different functions of your business (such as inspection checklists, inventory management, and customer satisfaction surveys), tools like GoCanvas offer a single platform with the flexibility to automate workflow in minutes, across hundreds of use cases.

For instance, after exploring the benefits of mobile time sheets, a natural progression would be adding invoicing – a popular choice among SMBs. This provides the flexibility to create invoices from anywhere and electronically route the invoice for approvals and payment. Then, using cloud-based integrations with accounting software like QuickBooks and FreshBooks, SMBs can glean critical data insights they need to be more proactive about accounts payable – in real time. They can track late payments, manage cash flow, and generate reports and dashboards that provide visibility into their finances.

Closing the Gaps to Better Data, Better Decisions

There’s really no excuse for SMBs to be behind the curve in adopting automation to better manage their data and turn it into business insights. Using ubiquitous technologies like smartphones and tablets, the power of the cloud, and advanced integrations, SMBs can now slice and dice a vast amount of data from one or multiple mobile apps, then view that data in one place and see patterns immerge immediately before their eyes.

These real-time insights can be vital. One of our clients, a construction company, performs regular inspections of its equipment using a GoCanvas app. If an inspector flags an issue, the issue is automatically entered into another app for work orders and sent to a technician for repair. All of this happens behind the scenes and instantaneously, through advanced integrations.

This is just one example, but there’s a huge opportunity for small business to eliminate the capability, affordability, and knowledge gaps that have prevented them from keeping up with and getting more from their data flow, while competing with businesses ten times their size. Whether SMBs are looking to achieve everyday insights that contribute to cost-efficiencies or glean deeper insights while gathering more data over time, investing in automated data collection can help easily turn numbers into insights.

Authored by: James Robins

James is Chief Marketing Officer of digital transformation platform GoCanvas. For more info, please visit: www.gocanvas.com