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Data science in the business environment: customer analytics case studies in SMEs

Jing Lu (Department of Digital Technologies, University of Winchester, Winchester, UK)
Lisa Cairns (Winchester Business School, University of Winchester, Winchester, UK)
Lucy Smith (Oakhaven Hospice Trust, Lymington, UK and Winchester Business School, University of Winchester, Winchester, UK)

Journal of Modelling in Management

ISSN: 1746-5664

Article publication date: 4 September 2020

Issue publication date: 25 May 2021




A vast amount of complex data is being generated in the business environment, which enables support for decision-making through information processing and insight generation. The purpose of this study is to propose a process model for data-driven decision-making which provides an overarching methodology covering key stages of the business analytics life cycle. The model is then applied in two small enterprises using real customer/donor data to assist the strategic management of sales and fundraising.


Data science is a multi-disciplinary subject that aims to discover knowledge and insight from data while providing a bridge to data-driven decision-making across businesses. This paper starts with a review of established frameworks for data science and analytics before linking with process modelling and data-driven decision-making. A consolidated methodology is then described covering the key stages of exploring data, discovering insights and making decisions.


Representative case studies from a small manufacturing organisation and an independent hospice charity have been used to illustrate the application of the process model. Visual analytics have informed customer sales strategy and donor fundraising strategy through recommendations to the respective senior management teams.

Research limitations/implications

The scope of this research has focused on customer analytics in small to medium-sized enterprise through two case studies. While the aims of these organisations are rather specific, they share a commonality of purpose for their strategic development, which is addressed by this paper.


Data science is shown to be applicable in the business environment through the proposed process model, synthesising micro- and macro-solution methodologies and allowing organisations to follow a structured procedure. Two real-world case studies have been used to highlight the value of the data-driven model in management decision-making.



Lu, J., Cairns, L. and Smith, L. (2021), "Data science in the business environment: customer analytics case studies in SMEs", Journal of Modelling in Management, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 689-713.



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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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