How We’re Using Data for Better Business Decisions—While Giving Me Back 25% of My Time
When it comes to the world of transportation, data is paramount to decision-making. The good news is that, in the digital age, the quantity of data is abundant. Whether it’s numbers around shipping, receiving, or—in our case—freight forwarding, the information is there. But the bad news is that without the right tools it can be almost impossible to efficiently analyze and make use of the numbers. Having an excellent data analysis BI tool to make sense of the data is more critical than ever.
As VP of sales and marketing at Allstates WorldCargo, my responsibilities are principally focused on data analysis. My work includes analyzing trends regarding our customers’ behaviors and growth. In addition, I also assist with national requests or proposals at the corporate level and negotiate all of our carrier rates. I report directly to the President & CEO and provide him with expenditures, market segments, and company growth. All of my work, therefore, requires extensive data analytics to be performed.
A year ago, we found ourselves faced with significant data analysis issues. We are an international freight forwarder with 22 offices throughout the United States and provide unique transportation solutions for our customers. This could be anything from chartering an entire plane to hotshotting cargo to arranging international importing on time-constraint freight.
A Painful Process
My data analysis process included me logging into our TMS system, extracting all of the data I could pull out of the platform, and then consolidating it into one spreadsheet. To give you a sense of the magnitude of the data at Allstates WorldCargo, I dealt with hundreds of thousands of records in just one month. This was a massive amount of data for me to manipulate, definitely not as simple as knowing a basic formula.
From there, I had to break the data down manually in an Excel spreadsheet. But since each of our stations operates independently from one another, I had to separate our key performance indicator (KPI) information into 22 different spreadsheets.
Digging deeper into my data-driven work, we support our team by showing which KPIs are vital for them to improve their business. For example, we provide each station with a revenue breakdown for each salesperson on their team. We provide them high-level information, including their profit margins, but we also dig deeper into aspects such as sales by customers, as well as by mode of transportation, and which countries they had business from, so they can monitor their international business.
Three Key Challenges
Overall, I faced three key challenges in performing my work. Firstly, and maybe most importantly, was the time it would take me to find, analyze, and present the data. I had to personally create Excel graphs and charts to present the data in the most digestible way, and then convert them into PDFs to show the station managers or our executive team. This part of my job was quite tedious and incredibly time-consuming. The work was spread out, but I probably spent a week each month on data collection, analysis, and presentation. In other words, this took up approximately 25% of my time.
The next issue was human error. Creating the spreadsheets myself meant there was a high likelihood of making data entry errors, which could severely impact the analysis. Then, there was the presentation side of things. With a PowerPoint presentation to the team, my data analysis was not interactive. I’d have to toggle between screens or tabs for each metric, and hunt for information or answers requested on the fly.
Analyzing the data clearly was important for our company, but my current system just didn’t work. I knew there were business intelligence tools that could make my life a lot easier. That’s when I discovered Numetric.
Set Up for Success
When I signed up with Numetric just over a year ago, they assigned me an account manager and she was phenomenal. We started with an initial conference call with the Numetric team to discuss my specific requirements for their system. This needs-assessment call made the onboarding and tutorial process with our account manager so successful and is key to customer retention on their side. I was able to understand Numetric and get what I needed out of the system from day one, rather than it being another source of work and stress for me.
She walked me through each stage of the setup process and helped me create all of the formulas I needed. Numetric uses join.me, so it was straightforward to work with our account manager because I could see exactly what she was doing on my screen and was able to learn the system visually along with her as we worked. I’ve purchased software from other companies before where once the sale is made you're on your own. But with Numetric, their customer support was fantastic.
Numetric was instrumental in helping me create the foundation for our data analysis. My account manager helped ensure our KPIs and overall analysis was correct. It was terrific to work with someone who could fine-tune the platform to my specifications. With any new systems, you’re never going to be an expert. That’s why it was critical to work with someone who could guide me through the whole experience.
Today, my job is hassle-free and I’ve done away with data analysis in Excel. Now that we have our formulas set up, once I upload the new data to Numetric, the platform takes care of everything. The analysis process couldn't get any easier. Thanks to Numetric, I get back that week every month that used to be lost to manual work.
When it comes to presenting the data, I have incredible graphs and charts made for me automatically with macros that I couldn’t create using Excel. The best part is that my presentations are now interactive. If I am in front of the executive team, I can easily access data points like increased revenue sources for the month, for example, with a click of the mouse, rather than fumbling between slides. If an executive has a question, we can drill into the data in real time. My presentations are now more engaging—and dynamic.
The other aspect of my work that’s become manageable is my role in supporting all of our locations. My account manager helped me set up a login for each of our 22 stations so they can view the data for their specific location. Now, managers at each location can access all the information they need on their screens. They can hone in on data for one particular salesperson, for example, or get an overview of the revenue growth of the entire station for the year.
Now, I can work with our team to review how productive their salespeople are, where their business has grown, where they've lost business, or where they need to target marketing. Numetric helps them manage their day-to-day business and set objectives for the future.
Overall, Numetric allows me to spend less time trying to organize data and more time focusing on the picture it’s painting. Today, I can concentrate more on working with my sales teams and look at how we can do better as a company. I now know that, with less effort, I can trust the accuracy of my data; I can make clear and concise decisions on behalf of the company. Finally, I’m empowered by the data—not buried in it.