Why [and how] is Big Data relevant to SME’s?
In the business community we have all heard the term ‘big Data’ and it is not unreasonable for the smaller business community to perceive it as largely irrelevant, only the large corporations need it. There are many different definitions with one consistent thread, that the amount of data is larger than ‘traditional’ tools can cope with. They also highlight the capability of gaining useful insights that will be used to drive business value. It is inferred in all that this is something of an industrial sized discipline used to deal with vast amounts of data. We would argue that the power of Data to add value to your business in any context should make your ears prick up and at least see if there is something worth being aware off going on?
If you google around the term Big Data invariably you will be presented with a definition that has some interesting components, maybe if we look at these in turn and see if there is anything we can leverage?
Volume – The amount of data that you have to deal with
Velocity – The speed that that data moves in and out of your organisation
Variety – The number of types of data that you will have to deal with
There are a number of refinements or ‘extra’ dimensions that are mentioned however in the context of SME’s we will stick to the basics and leave Veracity, Variability, Visualisation for another post.
It is surprising how much data is processed by everyone these days and the value of that data is greater than people realise. You need to see data as one of the critical resources of your business, good decisions depend on your ability to mine this data and create your business insights.
It is just as important for SME’s to reduce the risk of making poor decisions as it is for the big corporations. So making sure that you are clear about the flows of data, where they are and what you need to know from them is part of the housekeeping of the company. The large volumes mean that some of the techniques and tools out there are worth at least being aware of. The storage of the data in your organisation is something that you really need to get right from the ‘get go’ as your ability to use the data as you grow will be impacted if you make the ‘wrong’ choice in the initial stages. Always expect to scale any solution and this is where things like cloud are an ideal solution as they offer ultimate flexibility and scaleability, obviously this needs to be balanced with all the security and access concerns that the cloud presents [another blog].
Making sure that the intelligence that you have at your fingertips is as fresh and relevant as it possibly can be will keep you at the top of your management game. This means being clear about the flows and how quickly data passes through your hands can add to your ability to make good business decisions. Therefore the ‘freshness’ of your data is worth knowing, obviously how important it is is dependent upon your marketplace however thinking about data velocity might just help if you are relying on it for a key decision.
The types of data you may have to deal with is increasing you need to be able to deal with data intelligently from many sources in many different forms, and staying abreast of the likely forms. Consumers increasingly expect to provide information once and share it seamlessly between providers, this means that part of your value proposition will be the uniformity of the data that you accept. It may be a simple proposition when you are starting out and the volumes and complexity is relatively small however it doesn’t take long for complexity to creep in, just consider the impact of smart phone technology on the retail business. Suddenly consumers are able to access their ‘virtual store’ whilst in the physical store and expect the experience to be the same, they will increasingly expect retailers to recognise them and tailor offered / experiences to suit. These types of expectations will only be met with intelligent use of data.
Data is massive subject area and I have specifically scratched its surface to demonstrate the relevance of some of the concepts and ideas that may on first glance be irrelevant to those of us in the small & medium business sector.
Image by r2hox under creative commons