Big Data and Small Businesses

If you think big data analytics is only for big business, think again.  As many of our small, growing customers know, big data is not just about data volume.  You may not care a jot about the explosion of data your organisation collects.  To you it may just be noise as you have all the information you need to push the business forward.  But if you suspect that valuable insights are buried in this mountain of data – insights that could give you competitive advantage that you aren’t currently accessing or managing – you have a big data issue.

But the big news about big data analytics is that powerful, affordable business intelligence (BI) software can help access these insights whatever size your company is today.  BI tools can, for example, track products through to their destination, see how they are being used and identify any inventory that is slipping through the cracks.  Metrics can be used to discover trends in the data – noticing a shift in consumer demand before your competitors see it, or determining how even minor elements of website design can increase or decrease conversions.  The possibilities are virtually limitless.

What’s more, BI tools can both condense data and analyse multiple datasets from a wide range of sources, enabling small businesses to dig deeper and determine in which direction the causal arrows are flowing.  Does, for instance, that regular delay in shipping stem from the shipping company itself?  Or is there a problem in the factory?  This type of insight can easily be gleaned from big data by using the right BI tool.

Upping the amount of data your organisation tracks won’t be of any use if it’s not possible to understand the story that data tells.  In fact it can be counterproductive.  BI for small businesses avoids this problem by providing the kinds of customisable dashboards previously available only to companies with large IT departments.

Dashboards help users condense only the data they are interested in, and to centralise it in one place for easy access and manipulation.  What’s more, these types of software come with powerful reporting tools, allowing users to create visualisations which not only give better understanding of the data, but also to discuss that data in ways that make sense to everyone in the team, and other decision makers.

Getting Started with Big Data

There are several aspects to consider, to get the most bang for your buck, from big data.  Some of the things you should consider are:

  • What type of information are you expecting to get from your data? Will this help your business grow or become more efficient?
  • Are those answers likely to be contained in the data you have or are currently gathering? If not, is it worth investing resources to collect that data?
  • Is your data collection sufficiently automated?
  • Do you have the right tools in place to convert your big data into actionable insight?
  • Do you have the right people and processes in place to take advantage of the actionable insight?
  • Do you have a feedback loop so that you can keep making improvements to your internal tools and processes to bring about more efficiencies?
  • How do you track and prove ROI for your system?

Getting answers to these questions will help set your expectations and make rational decisions about your business.

With the right BI tool, big data is a great force for egalitarianism in the business world.  Small businesses that learn how to get a better handle on big data and turn it into insight, will be the leanest, most agile and innovative businesses around.

Mike Daly, Logi Analytics

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