'Guessing doesn't help' - an interview with Jacqui Taylor

‘Data visualisation’ and ‘cloud computing’ might sound like impenetrable buzz phrases - but these techniques and technologies actually have important applications for small business owners.

FlyingBinary is a firm dedicated to helping small business owners understand their firms better, using these new systems. We spoke to Jacqui Taylor, a director at FlyingBinary, about the implications for entrepreneurs.

Hi Jacqui. Tell us about Flying Binary. What does your business do?

We started FlyingBinary because we are excited about the rapid empowerment of users that is happening today in IT. Two key trends of this are the availability of low-cost, on-demand infrastructures and services aka “cloud computing”, and the availability of rapid visualisation tools designed to help businesses see patterns and trends in their data. We exist to help businesses exploit these trends and gain a competitive edge.

What was the inspiration behind the business? Do you have previous experience in the field?

When we saw the revolutionary analytical power of Tableau Software and the equally revolutionary collaborative power of Google Apps, we decided to use our experience to put these tools to work for people. We have always been focused on delivering real business solutions for users, and sometimes frustrated that the technology gets in the way, and ends up as the focus of the IT department. We have over 20 years experience serving everyone from small business to blue-chip corporations. During that time there have been a lot of promises from IT - not all of them delivered - but the step change that is available now provides an exciting opportunity to deliver some of these overdue promises. These things have to be seen, experienced, to be fully appreciated, but fortunately there are free or low cost opportunities to try the technologies before you commit.

How can data visualisation help small businesses?

Small businesses typically have very lean operating models, so cannot afford any waste. Equally, they are highly adaptable, and able to adjust rapidly to market conditions. The ability to see “into” their business data, and really grasp the trends, outliers and other patterns provides the owners of the business with the opportunity to react rapidly to situations and constrain costs or maximise revenues. Colour, shape, width, position can all be used to convey a very rich model very effectively - this also assists the business owner because the process is quick, and is kind to their diary. We will sit down with a business and show them how these new tools work, then train them to exploit their data, quickly. We call it Rapid Fire Business Intelligence!

I understand you are also exploring the cloud. How do you see cloud computing affecting business in the future?

Cloud computing - the provision of IT “as a service” rather than owning and managing boxes - frees people from having to focus on the IT, and allows the IT to become more easily embedded in the business. When you can just “use” something when you want, rather than having to maintain it you can, basically, forget about it. When the company grows you just buy a larger piece. It is IT kit on demand.

However, ‘going cloud’ is just the start. When you are on the cloud you can be connected and collaborate with other companies on the cloud. This is a powerful place with a thriving Apps marketplace, and no language or geography barriers. Being off the cloud will not be an option in the future.

How has the downturn affected your business?

The downturn means that every business wants to maximise their competitive edge. Sometimes the survival instinct is the most powerful and efficient of all. We provide two types of service that help businesses survive, prosper and compete. Everyone wants that, so we are thriving in the current climate. We are also in demand as expert speakers on both these subjects. We want to encourage people to get in touch if they would like to find out how these services affect their business.

What advice would you give to other prospective entrepreneurs?

You have to be passionate about what you are doing. The world is full of half-hearted attempts. Don’t join them. If you truly believe in your product or service, then go for it! At the same time remember that unless you are starting a charity, you must generate sales and profits, and you must be able to measure these numbers. Guessing doesn’t help! You are unlikely to be perfect at everything, so make sure you get help and advice for those areas where you are weaker. If you don’t know those areas then … that’s your first task!