Unleashing the Big Power of Little Data

Posted March 07, 2013

By Quinton Alsbury

Big Data may have started as a trend, but it has arrived in force and it's here to stay. Technology and applications that help enterprises store, analyze and use giant volumes of complex data will be among the most disruptive this year. With more data than ever available to businesses, it's easy to feel as though your success hinges on using all available data.

But not so fast: bigger isn't necessarily better.

Small business owners, with an eye on cost and execution, must take stock of their needs before they establish a data strategy. Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself before you invest in mining your data:

  • Are your employees on-the-go or office bound?
  • Which team members need access to complex data?
  • Do they have ways to make this data easy to share?
  • What are the key insights you're hoping to gain from tapping into your data?
  • How much money are you willing to invest in a new solution?

New technology, with its lower cost for both delivery and maintenance, provides great opportunities for small businesses to compete. This is true even if small businesses don't have access to traditional big data resources and service providers.

This is where "little data" comes into play. Smaller data sets from business applications -- such as customer relationship management (CRM), social media or email marketing -- can still provide much-needed insight to help businesses understand customer behavior patterns and showcase trends.

Small businesses that focus their efforts and dive deep into a few business-critical sets of data (such as sales in a specific sector, or performance metrics during peak versus low seasons) will see quicker and better results than companies that try to take on too much. Little data can yield big results for many departments within small businesses -- for everyone from the sales department to the executive director.

3 Tips to Reap Big Results from Little Data

1. Identify Goals

Focus on business-critical data sets that address your company's unique pain points. Is your data examination goal to understand how you're allocating staffing resources, or is it about analyzing website user behavior to drive higher conversion rates?

Separate goals require very separate sets of data investigation: whether you dive deeper into time management or a close assessment of page-visit duration and frequency.

2. Start Small

Not every small business is ready to invest is an intensive data or business intelligence (BI) system from day one. Google Analytics, for example, is free and can help you manage metrics like SEO performance, how much time customers spend on your site or how frequently you're attracting new visitors. 

Little data is everywhere; starting with small, easy-to-use tools can put your team in the right mindset to keep an active eye out for sources of data as you begin to identify your business goals and build your data plan.

3. Take Your Data to Go

From the traveling salesman all the way up to the CEO on the golf course, mobile access to data can be crucial for understanding and sharing metrics outside of the office. The average mobile worker carries 3.5 devices, which means that instant access to critical business data could be the difference between a lost sale and a sweet deal.

Make sure that you keep your mobile data secure so even the most active team members can stay connected to important metrics.

Quinton Alsbury is the co-founder and president of product innovation at Roambi, a mobile business application company.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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