From Good to Great: Analyzing Business Data

Businesses around the world are constantly looking for opportunities to grow their business and reach more customers or create new product lines to expand their target customers and cover more of their customers’ needs. However, pure ambition is not what makes businesses great, businesses prosper only when the right decisions are taken at the right time. And more than anything else, what makes the decisions taken, the “right” ones are the knowledge and certainty that the decision taken would produce the intended output. Therefore, businesses need data to guide and assist the decision-making process. Or in pure Somali term, “war la helyaa, talo hel!”. Without knowing how your business is doing, you may be sowing the right seeds at the wrong time.

As a professional data analyst working in Somalia, my first and biggest challenge is to convince the traditional Somali business owner, one that owns a supermarket, a shop, a food and grocery store, clothes store, or medium-sized general trading company that import basic food commodities, medicine, building materials and other day-to-day goods, that he/she needs his business data analysed. 

In order to do that, the most straightforward example I use is the following:  

“Let me say you have 3 employees working for you in your shop/supermarket, two work in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. What if the sales data of your shop can help you decide exactly on what hours you need 2 of your staff at the shop? In other words, what if you can find out the busiest hour of your business, or the hour you make the most money?” 

If one is not convinced, I ask them just one simple question, “Do you know which of your employees is more efficient than the other? The one that handles the most customers per given time? Wouldn’t that enable you to decide which employees to put on the busiest hour?” 

I, finally, talk about a business-owner’s favorite topic.  

“Do you know which of the product you sell is responsible for the highest total sales you make in a day? Or which of your products finishes faster than the rest?”  

It is not a secret that everyone would love to have their data analyzed and have their decision-making process informed by insights from the business data. However, it is a bit scary to most of the medium-sized business owners in Somalia let alone the micro and small business owners. One of the reasons I have understood over the years is the ‘getting out of the comfort zone’ in dealing with technology and trusting an external person to see your business data. Although I would argue that “you really need your data to talk to you because it will benefit you first more than anyone else”, but I won’t. I will instead ask if I can give a tip or two to help you yourself analyze your own data and see it says to you.  

First and foremost, almost all business transactions in Somalia are in electronic or mobile money, EVC, SAHAL, ZAAD, eDahab, MyCash etc. That is really a good place to start. I am sure it is easy for business owners to print or access their business transactions by either going to the telecommunication companies that provide the mobile money service or by using the web portal service. For now, I would assume you have an internet connection, you have basic digital literacy (meaning you can navigate through the web and open Ms Office applications like excel). 

If you tick those two boxes (access to mobile money web portal service, or applications like Waafi or eDahab), then you would be able to know the following:

  1. How much money your business makes in a day, hour, week, month or year.
  2. The number of customers you serve per day, hour, week month or year.
  3. The busiest hour of your business day
  4. The busiest hour of your business week
  5. The busiest days of the month for your business
  6. The business seasons of your area, or line of business or both.

Once you download your MMT transaction record as Excel from either the MMT application or the MMT web port, you will have a rough excel sheet that has four or five rows containing the company name, the customer name, the total balance of the account and the printed date. You will need to delete those as they are just extra information that you are already familiar with. 

Once you do that, you will end up an excel sheet that looks like a table. It will have the following columns:

  • Transfer ID (the transaction reference number), 
  • Date (transaction date), 
  • Description (what actually happened, whether you have sent or received money, 
  • OtherPartyAcc (The other party/person that has sent money to your account or received money from your account)
  • Debit (The money you have sent from your account)
  • Credit (The money that has been sent to your account)
  • Balance (The balance after that transaction)

The following diagram roughly gives you an idea of all your business transactions that happened on the 21st of February 2022. In this specific example, I will not worry about the money I have sent from my business account and the balance as well, that is why I have blacked out the two columns. 

You will see that we have made a copy of the date column, but this time we have formatted it so that it only displays the time. You can go to the home and under the “Number” choose the custom date/time format that allows you to see only the time from a date/time column.  

Graphical user interface, table

Description automatically generated

Part 1: Per Customer Total

For this, I have made a copy of the OtherPartyAcc column into a separate area, then by selecting the whole column and clicking on the “Data” tab and the choosing “Remove Duplicates” I have managed to have the list of customers without repetition. Then it is time to calculate two things:

Frequency (per customer), Total (per customer). Giving us an indication of how many times a customer comes back to the shop per day and much in total they buy from the shop. 

  • For frequency, we use the “COUNTIF” function: =COUNTIF($E$3:$E$9,H3)
  • For the total, we use the “SUMIF” function: =SUMIF($E$3:$F$9,H3,$F$3:$F$9)

Part 2: Bihourly Total

Just by glancing at the core data, I can see the first transaction of the day was made on 5:34 in the morning and the last transaction was made on 18:22 in the evening. Therefore, I have decided to create a list of the business hours of the shop (bihourly), from 6:00 to 0:00. 

It is time to calculate what transactions have been made before 6:00 in the morning, then what transactions have been made between 6:00 to 8:00 in the morning. We add two hours until it is midnight. 

  • Before 6:00:00 : =SUMIF($C$3:$C$9,”<“&E13,$F$3:$F$9)
  • Between every 2 hours: =SUMIF($C$3:$C$9,”<“&E14,$F$3:$F$9) 

This shows you the total sells we have made up to that hour of the day. 

Quick Insights: 

You would know from the brief analysis we have done that, 

  • Axmed and Faadumo have done 2 and 3 transactions each, a total of 5 transactions, meaning these two are responsible for 70% of the number of transactions we have made today. 
  • Axmed and Faadumo have made bought products worth $985 ($653 for Faadumo and $332 for Axmed), which is 96% of the total sales we have made on the 21st of February. 
  • There is no significant business during the morning hours of the day, before 12 PM 
  • There is also no significant business after 7 PM in the evening
  • Almost all the sales of the shop were between 12 to 6 PM. Meaning 


Although I acknowledge that SMEs may not have the necessary budget to hire a data analyst, nevertheless they need to be well informed by the business data they have at hand. Starting small and putting little effort to analyze bits and pieces of their data is to me the ideal step. Once you are comfortable with that, you can consider paying for data analysis training for one of the current business employees. Or buy/subscribe to a Data Analytics Solution without breaking the bank. 

Finally, businesses will not only be able to analyze the transaction or business sales records but will also be able to:

  1. Inventory records
  2. Detailed sales records from Quickbook and other Enterprise Management Solutions
  3. Customer churn
  4. Business expenses
  5. Overall business trend

For sure, data insights will enable businesses to be aware of what products perform well compared to the rest, the overall behaviour of their customers – for example, looking into what items are bought together the most, who your loyal customers are, the effects of the seasons on your business.  Somalis are good in the business sector, but with the right information, Somalis businesses can do way better than good. 

Faysal A. Mataan, Business Intelligence Analyst Based in Bosaso & Mogadishu

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