How can SMEs use data to challenge the market in a post-COVID economy?

This week, S&P Global, the financial data provider, announced it is buying its rival IHS Markit for $44bn (£32bn). It is the biggest takeover so far in 2020 - a year that has itself broken records for mergers and acquisitions activity. The deal highlights the increasing value of data and the fierce race to supply more data to participants in financial markets that are themselves becoming increasingly automated.

Data, in a post-COVID economy, has proven to be a valuable commodity, even at lower levels. A London data analytics company announced this week that it has more than doubled its profit in its fourth successive year of revenue growth higher than 25 per cent. IXICO, which delivers insights in neuroscience, saw a 26 per cent increase in revenue this year, rising from £7.6m to £9.5m, with EBITDA more than doubling from £0.5m to £1.3m. The company’s operating profit saw growth of more than £0.5m, increasing to £0.9m from 2019’s £0.4m, with its order book reaching a record £21.7m - a rise of 36 per cent.

As all industries of business continue to be impacted by fluctuating Coronavirus restrictions, The Future Strategy Club have drawn on their freelancer base to provide a robust bank of advice from the UK's top strategic thinkers in a new Survival Guide for businesses. Karl Weaver is a member of The Future Strategy Club and the former CEO of UK Data at the Publicis Groupe and has contributed to this guide and shares how firms can filter data during the pandemic to the best effect. Below, Karl discusses the importance of data for small businesses in 2021:

"There are a number of things small businesses can do. The use of data to generate commercial insights alongside the trust consumers need to share data, Covid aside, will become much more important. There is often an assumption that consumers will happily exchange information with a brand, but the nature and relationship in that exchange is becoming more important. As consumers become more aware of how their data is used and the value it has, brands will need to think more about how they build trust in this space.

There are more and more examples of advertising and media businesses cropping up that are designed to help accelerate smaller companies. They can help source expertise through the connections they have and find ways to access budgets directly with media owners. Media owners have worked out that they need to get in with companies when they are small and build a long-term relationship for when they grow to be larger and more lucrative clients.

The power of creativity is well documented, and the growth of platforms like The Future Strategy Club means accessing high-quality skills in this and related spaces is easy and efficient. Ensuring that you set up the right performance metrics that you are able to measure and refine along the way will also be critical.

The clarity you have on the value your business delivers has to be combined with ensuring that the message is well understood by all employees. Throughout my career, it’s fascinated me how often people at the top of an organisation hold a clear vision for the business but the wider employee base don’t get it. The vision has to be explained and translated into relevant behaviours and actions at all levels so that everyone understands what they are doing and why. This helps build a strong cultural resilience into the system and an ability to make decisions quickly, which is vital when we are being subjected to the forces of a global pandemic."

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