Streamlining Data Collection for Small Business


You think that with today’s technology, no businesses collect data manually anymore. But surprisingly, a survey by InfinityQS found that 75% of large manufacturers still do. If that’s the case, then startups are more likely to use manual data collection processes.

If your startup’s IT budget is low, it’s understandable why you’d put up with manual processes—for the meantime, at least. Not having an innovation plan will lead to time constraints and productivity issues. But if you find it challenging to go high-tech anytime soon, you are not alone. Boston Consulting Group has found that manufacturers face barriers to adopting high-tech data collection strategies. Again, this can indicate that startups like yours have it worse. But that doesn’t mean you’re hopeless.

For now, these are the things you can do to streamline your data collection.

1. Use Free or Low-cost Mobile Apps

If you have to collect data from surveys, you don’t have to pay for an expensive platform. Google Forms alone can help. Use that or other similar low-cost or free apps to conduct surveys. You can also use them to gather information about your customers so that you can customize their shopping experience.

Using mobile apps is beneficial if you have to deal with data from customers facing connectivity issues. For example, if you’re organizing a fundraiser or donation drive, you can’t expect your beneficiaries to have speedy internet connections. Hence, it’s your responsibility to adjust to their situation and offer more accessible alternatives to collect their data. This is why offline data collection remains essential, even in the age of smart technology.

2. Identify the Barriers You Face

As you take steps toward innovation, identify the exact factors that hinder growth. In manufacturing, these are often called bottlenecks. Spot bottlenecks in your processes so that you can loosen them and clear out your path.

To give you an idea, common barriers to innovation include IT constraints, lack of time, and lack of data-source integration. IT constraints refer to connectivity issues, insufficient IT infrastructures, and the absence of an IT support team, which often applies to small businesses and startups. Lack of time, secondly, is often the case for labor-intensive industries, like manufacturing. When an organization is too preoccupied to consider innovation, the plan gets pushed back indefinitely.

And lastly, the lack of data-source integration is the absence of a streamlined data collection system itself. This makes small businesses unable to gather data into a single repository. Thankfully, there are solutions to this, as well as to the other two constraints. Using the cloud is one. It can sophisticate data collection and security for startups. It doesn’t have to be expensive or cost a dollar at all. Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are two examples of free cloud-based databases.

people at the office

3. Automate What You Can

Even if your startup lacks the budget for high-end innovation, you can still automate some processes. Payroll, for instance. Many companies don’t do that process manually anymore. Even if Microsoft Excel is your only option, it’s still better than using outdated time cards or record books.

4. Reduce the Amount of Manual Data Entry

Spreadsheets are helpful, but they can limit productivity and make errors more likely. Take manual data collection up a notch by using apps like Evernote or Catch. Both apps allow you to type text on your smartphone or tablet and take photos. This helps minimize errors when collecting offline data. Just ensure that you’d choose an app that’s compatible with your workflow. In time, these small steps can bring you closer to investing in BigCommerce and SAP integration, which can be considerable investments for your company.

5. Get Creative

Sometimes, online data collection is just impossible. As stated in the example in Number One, some data can only come from people without access to the internet. In that case, technology can only do so much to help you reach out to those data sources.

Hence, get creative in your offline data collection. Physically meet up with people whose data you require. Hold focused-group discussions, personally or virtually, to gather more personal or in-depth data. If you need to collect data from people without a social media account, use bulletin boards. It is a common approach in schools that never gets old.

Putting QR codes on your products will help too. It allows your customers to check out your other offers or review your products. You can also send out emails or direct mail. It’s a tried-and-true strategy businesses use when they don’t have enough resources for offline data collection.

Adopting high-tech strategies might be a standard for businesses today, but believe it or not, many areas still struggle to have even an internet connection. Hence, don’t be pressured to spend money on innovation right away. You’ll eventually get there. For now, streamline using whatever resources are available and affordable.