The explosion of big data concepts has often been portrayed in the backdrop of big business – multinational corporations with global brands and a massive customer base extending across continents. However, big data is just as valuable and relevant to small business. At a time when every business of every size is using a range of software, employing technology in all aspects of its operation and interacting with customers or even trading online, data is amassing from a number of different sources.
Traditionally small business has been restricted by costs and skills in better understanding the deeper aspects of its operation, interacting with customers, improving its products/services and identifying new areas of growth. Big data tools have now changed the playing field. Accessing, analyzing and reporting of big data gives small business the insight it needs and to make better decisions rather than working on a trial-and-error basis.
It is no longer a question about whether big data can add value to small business – it is rather a question of just how much of value big data can bring to the table. The ease of use of big data tools today, its flexibility and rapid deployment time has essentially brought business intelligence to small business without compromising an operation’s limited resources.
The Challenges of Big Data for SMEs
Small business often does not realize the amount of information it accumulates daily. It is no longer just the data that is within the accounting/CRM software. Big data for small business is the constant flow of data from documents, faxes, emails, website log, social media, sensor information where relevant, lead forms and e-commerce interface. A significant portion of this data is never analyzed or leveraged for business value.
In the past small business was unaware of the value of all this data but these days it is often a question of how to leverage this information. Manually processing all this data expends resources, like time and staff, which is just not feasible for a small enterprise. It also requires specialist skills that may be unaffordable in the context of small business. At most, manual reporting on small data sets would drive business decisions despite it being outdated and restricted.
The diversity of data sources means that 80% of data that any business, big or small, is accumulating is unstructured. For the small business it was a matter of understanding how to process this data, store it and use it. Big data tools have changed the playing field altogether. It has placed the power of big data into the hands of end-users with little or no programming knowledge or skills in data analysis and reporting.
Big Data Software for Small Business
Big data software is not only for big business. New tools can be utilized by businesses dealing with only megabytes or gigabyte of data to those handling terabyte or even petabytes.
- It is able to capture and sort information from various data sources through simple-to-use visual interfaces.
- It is able to graphically represent data in an easy-to-understand manner for business value.
- It is able to identify problems and pitfalls that may be costing small business its customers, wasting resources or even hampering growth.
Irrespective of the size of a business, the fundamentals of business intelligences remains the same. It is no different with big data applications. It can add value to a business by leveraging the information that is relevant today for better business decisions. Harnessing big data effectively can give any small business an edge beyond just traditional good business practices.