Big data and business intelligence have become trendy phrases in the business world. Until now it has only been associated with big corporate businesses with expensive software or excel data geeks. But what does it mean for SMEs?
Initially the term “Big Data” was applied to organisations that had such large data sets that they could no longer work with them internally to analyse their own data on things like customer buying patterns. Now it has evolved into the ability to analyse publicly available data into business opportunities. For example, Google can analyse the number of searches for flu related phrases to help pharmaceutical suppliers where to supply flu vaccine in near real time.
Companies are creating new tools to help measure what we think, how we act and what we want. Data is used to identify trends and opportunities based on social signals from tweets, blog posts, status updates, purchases, downloads etc.
It is the rush to profit from this information that is driving the buzz surrounding Big Data. But what does this mean for SMEs? While much of the hype is centred around corporate solutions, new cloud based software alternatives are now making tools available to small and medium enterprises, using analysis of their business data to tap into the minds and data of the market to increase their business advantage. Big Data is just data and of little value unless it is used for Big Insights.
Here are the 5 ways for SMEs to jump on the train of turning Big Data into Business Insights:
- More cloud integration – most business analysis will be done in a cloud environment with increasingly easier integration of data sets from tools for sales and marketing, ICT management, HR and accounting. Data can be refreshed in real time for fast analysis. Business intelligence software comes with features that allow easy data export and sharing. This will make cooperation easier with everyone in the business to have access to important company data for very little investment.
- Culture of measurement – There needs to be a culture of measurement and analysis based on objectives, goals and metrics. Unless you get hooked on small data like routinely asking what your customers think and measuring every possible data and touch point, big data will just be more noise. Data will become more visual with great looking colourful graphics making more sense than plain text and excel spreadsheets to those who have to do the measuring and those making decisions based on the data.
- Know what you need answers to – We’ve always had access to reams of data in SMEs, but the real value will be in knowing what to make of it. If you have lots of data, you really need an Insights Officer, not just a data expert to make sense of it, pull out the exceptions, uncover the opportunities in your business and communicate the insights. An Insights Officer will know what data you will need to measure and analyse to find the answers to what you are trying to find out. They will have plenty of experience in business and in your industry.
- Walk before you can run – Until you can get a handle on your own data, you shouldn’t concern yourself with the cool new tools that might help you make sense of more data. For SMEs that means creating dashboards of key metrics for your industry e.g. lead generation, customer conversion, customer acquisition costs, stock turns, margins.
- Hire a numbers nerd – data mining and analysis is not DIY for SME owners. You need a numbers person – one who sees unintelligible digits, charts and graphs and sees music. This numbers nerd will need to know how to install and write a bit of code and read a P&L. They will customise the processes to grab the data from your systems to create the graphs that will give the insights into tracking and measuring the data that counts for your business.
While there are many Business Intelligence geeks in the corporate world, there are very few at the SME level and most business owners and accountants do not have the time to train and keep up to date in this fast-moving space. But find the right one and your business will change forever.
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