Can big data analytics benefit smaller businesses to the same degree as large enterprises?

There’s a widespread assumption that the benefits of analytics capabilities and insights afforded by big data applications is the sole preserve of large enterprises, with huge numbers of staff and even bigger applications budgets. The assumption would probably have been factually correct a few years ago, but times moves on and things change. More and more small businesses are looking to reap the benefits of analytical insight from big data applications. It’s not as if any of this is new or uncharted: small businesses have been relying on tools like Google Analytics for marketing campaign metrics for years now. Obviously these same SMBs are not in a financial position to install the kind of infrastructure that’s needed for massive data analytics applications, but none the less these small companies can now access applications and software from the likes of accounting applications vendor, Intuit, at a relatively modest cost that will give them valuable insights about their businesses, their customer-base and their marketing campaigns.

One shining example is SiSense, a business intelligence (BI) software company that is leading the way into this new era of business intelligence, reporting, dashboarding and business analytics. SiSense’s application allows small companies to draw information out of the transaction statistics being collected on their e-commerce sites and in CRM databases (including Salesforce.com). It’s business intelligence software, Prism, is intended to be used by business analysts who are interested in running self-serve analytics applications, rather than IT experts. Prism is capable of visualising trends in a simple and easily-understood way. Companies can either buy the capability on a subscription basis or via an on-site licence. We’ve probably all seen the logos for massive consumer brands on the SiSense Web site, but companies with as few as 10 people are now also using the application regularly to gather more business intelligence from the data they’ve collected.

The same sort of philosophy – that is, making big data analytics available to everyone, lies behind the big data push launched by Intuit in December, 2012. The company’s strategy is to ensure that it makes better use of the collective data of more than 60 million consumers and allow its customers to benefit from this “collective wisdom.” Obviously all private information would remain confidential, but QuickBooks Online users will be able to run more analytics against their own data as well as the information collected across the network. A perfect example of this is the QuickBooks Online Trends feature. This feature shows small companies how their revenue and income match up and compare to their peers. Another feature is the Intuit Loan Finder, which will help SMBs generate information to help finance growth initiatives, by finding the best rates available.

In an interview with ZDNet, Brad Smith, the president and CEO of Intuit explained the philosophy behind the new big data push:

Big data has long been seen as an opportunity for big businesses. We actually think that the biggest opportunity is giving consumers and small businesses the power of data. We look forward to a new era where big data benefits the little guy.”