Why big data isn’t just for big businesses

Think analytics is the most boring (or baffling) of the latest technologies? Think again…

Of all the emerging technologies talked about today – from humanoid robots and self-driving cars to appliances we can control with our voice – few seem less cool than big data. Even its name may sound off-putting: “big” implies overwhelming, and “data” often causes companies like yours nothing but headaches.

But don’t dismiss it yet. Because it could be the one thing you can put in place today that makes you more productive, more profitable and more powerful than you thought possible.

In case you’ve previously switched off at its mere mention, big data is a term that describes all the bits and bytes your business collects on a day-to-day basis. This goldmine of information can be analysed and used to make better strategic decisions and improved customer experiences. (Starting to sound more appealing yet?)

By the year 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet.[1]

56% of SMEs check business data rarely to infrequently, while 3% have never looked at it at all. That means growth decisions are being made based on gut feeling, rather than physical evidence within reach.[2]

However, you have to be fast: nearly two thirds of small businesses are looking to big data to benefit their business, according to new research.[3] And there’s good reason.

Lauren Walker, Big Data and Analytics leader at IBM UK & Ireland, says: “Besides analysing their own data to learn how they have performed in the past, businesses need to be able to look forward and change before the market does.

“It’s this data that allows SMEs to provide personalisation and customisation tailored to the specific needs and wants of individual consumers.”4

So, how can you take full advantage of big data and twist it from something boring into something brilliant for your business? Here are our top tips:

  • Think big. Start small.

    Consider what insights you really want to get
    out of your data before you put a strategy in place. Dave Becerra, Vice
    President of Strategy and Business Development at Roambi, says: “Smaller data
    sets from CRM platforms, social media or email marketing programmes can still
    provide much-needed insight to help businesses understand customer behaviour
    patterns and showcase trends.

    “Instead of a bank-breaking big-data solution, small businesses should focus
    their efforts and dive deep into a few business-critical sets of data – such as
    sales in a specific sector, or performance metrics during peak versus low seasons.”[4]
  • Show yourself the money

    While big data doesn’t always need a big budget, a little cash boost can certainly help. So it’s handy that some regional government agencies offer support for small businesses’ initiatives,[5] which you can learn more about here.

    Seek out opportunities for funding, and don’t just invest that money in the most elaborate new big-data technologies that offer functionality beyond what you need. Instead, use it to skill up staff and choose tools like CRM or telephony systems you can plug your current data sources into.

    It’s all about making the most of what you’ve already got, and building from there.
  • Partner up

    Find off-the-shelf software that can help you capture, collate, store and analyse your data; a cloud provider that can handle the data you’ve accumulated, affordably; and a partner that gives you the fast and reliable connectivity to be gathering and analysing it 24/7.

There we have it. Big data can mean big things for your small business, so give it a go and you’ll see results that make it seem cool after all.


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