By Alex Depledge, tech entrepreneur

WHEN most people think about data science or big data, they often think of complex algorithms, endless lines of code or indecipherable analytics. But the truth is data science doesn’t have to be hard. It can, and should, be very simple. At least to start with.

Businesses should not be overawed or daunted by the prospect of harnessing data to improve their business operations. A simple application of easily-accessible data can help a business save money and increase efficiencies.

In my first business, we tried to cater for a variety of different services but something wasn’t right – we weren’t performing as well as we expected, and hoped to. When we counted the number of visitors coming to the website and what initial service was selected, we realised they were overwhelmingly looking for a singular service. We didn’t need to perform any complex analysis, it was that obvious. A decision was then made to pivot the business to that one particular service and we haven’t looked back. It proved to us that using data to drive out business inefficiencies doesn’t have to be complex.

A key element is deciding and identifying what data you can collect in the first place. Simply put, if you don’t measure it, you can’t see it.

A lot of companies don’t take the time needed to work out the key drivers of their business. Only once that has happened can a business work out what drives those key metrics and, as a result, keep the business focused on what it does well and not waste valuable time.

Often one of the hardest things for businesses, particularly start-ups, to do is saying no. Data helps with that. It can provide you with the ammunition or assurance you need to go in a certain direction and avoid having your head turned the wrong way. As a business owner, it can help you stay true to your original vision and focus. Inefficiencies cost organisations and data has the ability to help weed-out poorly designed business processes.

The absence of access to data, or the necessary time or resources to deep-dive into it shouldn’t mean a business cannot be data-driven. Instead, businesses can make assumptions or educated guesses and then use data to test and validate it. Sometimes it is a case of being able to spot patterns and trends as much as it is number-crunching.

There really is no excuse for a company to not use data in some form to improve and questions should be asked as to why it is not. Start with the basics. If you can count, you can be data-driven.

In an ever polarised-world, too many in business try to stick their colours to one particular mast alone, on one particular side of a very wide fence. It might not be in vogue at the moment, but in my experience there is no harm in positioning yourself on the centre ground. The same is true of business’ use of data. Data science can make a big difference to a business, but it should not be forgotten that it will only get you so far.

While analysing data and using it to inform business decisions can be useful, I am also an advocate of respecting and harnessing human intuition. It still has a role to play in an increasingly data-driven world and its importance should not be overlooked or underestimated.

People think data science is scary but it doesn’t have to be. The more businesses realise this, and harness the power and insight data science and analytics can offer, the better off they’ll be for it.

Alex Depledge, Founder of, will be speaking at Data Summit, part of Data Fest 18 which runs from March 19-23.