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Big data: how it’s transforming the SMB landscape


Originally considered a tool for larger enterprises, more and more SMBs are now reaping the benefits of big data analytics.

Big data analytics has become an invaluable tool in the business landscape. Organisations are using the insights gleaned from big data mining to rethink their operations, offerings and outlook.

While the technology was initially the province of larger enterprises, the advent of relatively inexpensive analytical tools and cloud computing in recent years has put it within reach of SMBs.

 Cloud analytics

Although most big data discussion focuses on enterprises with the resources to install hardware and hire data scientists, there are several ways SMBs can gather, analyse and make sense of the massive amounts of online and offline information available to them to make wise, data-driven decisions.

Google Analytics can extract long-term data to reveal trends and other valuable information. By analysing visitor behaviour, like traffic origin, engagement levels and bounce rates, organisations can make data-based decisions about their website’s goals.

Google Analytics also allows organisations to analyse social media traffic to see which social media marketing campaigns are working and which aren’t.

IBM Watson Analytics doesn’t need complex data-mining and analysis system skills, but automates the process instead. A self-service analytics solution, Watson Analytics includes a suite of data-access, data-refinement and data-warehousing services, giving SMBs all the tools they need to simply prepare and present data in an actionable way.

A tool to meet challenges

Making sense of big data can be totally overwhelming for SMBs, so a better way to think about it is as a tool to solve challenges.

Is your organisation trying to boost customer numbers? Does it want to target its marketing better?

Once an organisation knows which problem it wants to solve, it can research the best way to solve it using data.

Start small

Don’t try to do too much to start off with. Use the scientific method by coming up with a hypothesis and using the data to see if you are correct.

An SMB can also do a trial analysis of the data to see if it helps solve the problem. If it doesn’t, it hasn’t expended much time or money. However, if it does solve the issue then the organisation has some usable information and a pathway for future research.

Break down the silos

While SMBs are less likely to have major data silos as enterprises often do, it’s still imperative for departments not to hoard information.

While big data analysis is a powerful tool, it’s still a case of junk-in, junk-out. You’ll need to wade through a lot of useless data to find the real gems, so effective communication between business areas is essential.

Also, don’t forget that government agencies hold a large amount of data which may be of use, and can often be obtained at little or no charge.

Actionable agility

Big data is not just about analysis; it’s about taking action based on the results of your research.

It’s important that organisations move fast once results start coming out of their data. Being able to act quickly and decisively is vital. If the data reveals key customer behaviour or trends, then your business needs to capitalise on these insights.

In some ways, big data analytics can be even more valuable to SMBs than it can to larger businesses. Large corporations tend to be bureaucratic and slow to act or change. By contrast, SMBs tend to be more agile as they often boast flat management structures and simple communication styles.

So while SMBs may doubt they have the money or time to use big data, it can be an invaluable tool. Big data can easily give SMBs a snapshot of the business landscape they’re operating in, whether they want to learn about their customers or competitors.

About the author
Darren Baguley
Darren Baguley started his journalism career in 1986 as a cadet on the Burnie Advocate, in Tasmania. Since finishing his cadetship he’s had more jobs both in and out of journalism than he likes to remember. In 2002, Darren began freelancing for a variety of publications including The Bulletin, Managing Information Strategies (MIS), Computerworld, Computer Reseller News and Image and Data Manager (IDM).
Article attribution: Fast Business | Canon