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When it comes to Data, small companies need to think BIG!

26 October 2015

Big business is used to it, smaller enterprises not so much. But the gathering of data (particularly 'Big Data') is becoming as important as branding and marketing for smaller companies. As an SME, the chances are you're collecting massive amounts of data every day for your organisation, but what are you doing with it all?

Big Data is rarely out of the technology news pages, with articles on how it will change our lives, both professionally and personally. Yet smaller companies (unless their business is precisely to do with Big Data), rarely treat it as a priority, demoting it below the coffee-making function.

When seeking funding or an investment strategy from a company such as Mercia, it is critical to know what your Big Data is and what to be talking about to a potential investor, because they will be interested.

Moreover, this is not just sales data or traditional marketing research data. For online companies (and I can’t think of any that are not in some way ‘online’) it can be all kinds of data.

For example, in a basic form, Google Analytics provides a lot of big data about your online visitors: their use of your website; what they buy/don’t buy and how they buy/don’t buy it; what they gather information on and what they are far less interested in, etc. And this is just Google! The fact that Social Media platforms have data on us that many of us are aware of is a lot more controversial.

That aside, the challenge with Big Data for many tech SMEs is the lack of understanding of how to implement and benefit from it. Knowing that you have to incorporate Big Data into your business strategy, pitching rounds and procurement process is one thing, but knowing how to actually do it is something completely different.

Even Bigger Data...

Big Data has often been defined as amounts of information so large that they become too difficult to gather, process and analyse using traditional methods. Such information may be collected from a variety of sources. For example, sensors that monitor climate and environmental conditions, healthcare ‘wearable tech’ that monitors our physiology, not to mention other data from nearly five billion or so IoT (Internet of Things) connected-devices around the world… and this is only in its early days!

Big Data can be overwhelming, so you need to plan how to digest and use it all

When it comes to Big Data, there are a number of critical aspects:

  1. Volume: Big Data most commonly involves very large amounts of information. Indeed, there are five petabytes of data generated each day by mobile devices alone. More data isn’t necessarily better, but a lack of data can be fatal for your business.

  2. Speed: The speed at which data transfers plus the time in which you can interrogate it. If it is not possible to interpret the data you’re collecting, or you don’t have the bandwidth to access it, then it is not really providing its full value.

  3. Variety: This is the type of data you collect and need to base your decisions on. You may have access to the heart-rate data being collected by your CEO’s Fitbit, but this data isn’t necessarily relevant to your business processes

  4. Accuracy: As the saying goes - garbage in, garbage out. The data you’re collecting has to be uncontaminated data, with anything considered to be noise either deleted or filtered away from view.

What all of this means for tech SMEs will differ from business to business and there may be relatively little interest from most. But a versatility in the terminology and an ability to discuss it (not least with investors) is a must.

Managing Big Data

To manage the massive influx of data, you will likely need to implement a Digital Management Process or at least outsource it to experts. The whole point of collecting the data is to enable intelligent decisions that help your business. You and your company may not be the best people to manage your own data.

A digital management strategy will help you improve your predictive abilities, evaluate your capabilities and capacities, identify key opportunities to save costs or improve value, and predict budget. Information is the new digital gold, and you have the ability to leverage its power.

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