What Big Data Means to Small Business - Page 2

By Pam Baker
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What to Do With Big Data

"Asking 'Is Big Data useful for small business?' is a little like asking, 'Is a lot of oxygen bad for people?'" says Jake Freivald, vice president of corporate marketing for Information Builders. Everyone needs oxygen but in different concentrations, he says. For example, those who are scuba diving need a different concentration of oxygen, and they need it packaged a different way, than say those who live at high altitudes.

"Each of these differences in managing oxygen comes with an associated cost, and therefore shouldn't be undertaken without a goal in mind," he explained. "Similarly, all things being equal, more data is better; but SMBs shouldn't just collect data without a goal in mind, and that goal had better be worth the associated sacrifices the company will need to undertake in managing Big Data."

So the question is not "What do I do with all this Big Data I collected?" but "What do I need to know to advance my business and where does that information exist?" Once you determine where the information you need is, and you go look at it and have a whoa-momma-that's-a-whole-lot-of-information-to-dig-through moment, then you look to big data tools to do the mining for you.

"If the answer makes the IT team quake in their boots because of the data volumes, velocity, or variety, then the small business should start talking to Big Data specialists about what can be done to make those possibilities actual," says Freivald.

The Advantages of Using Big Data

Hamid Schricker, product marketing manager at Radius Intelligence, offered these examples of how small businesses can profit from using Big Data:

  • Big Data offerings help small businesses make sense of the explosion of data from social networks, websites, user generated content, location from mobile phones, etc. This will continue to grow with the increase of digital signals.
  • Companies based on Big Data have improved the overall economy of SMBs. With easy-to-use online tools that crunch big data 1) SMBs can better generate new customers and retain existing ones. 2) More companies can offer and sell a wider variety of services to the SMB market. 3) And they can reduce cost and increase revenue
  • Big Data is becoming a competitive advantage and economic asset for SMBs from both sides of the market: buy-from-SMBs and sell-to-SMBs

While those points are all true, nearly everyone has different reasons for leveraging Big Data, and those reasons are also true.

For example, Rachel Delacour, co-founder and CEO of the cloud-based Business Intelligence start-up Bime, believes these are the top three reasons why Big Data matters to SMBs:

  • Go deep for cheap: SMBs can, for the first time, mine their own business data like the big guys, and do so quickly and cheaply.
  • Big Data will be their best salesperson: While everyone from a CEO down is busy running the company, collaborative BI will allow everyone, including partners and customers, to delve into and engage with Big Data.
  • Everyone will be the Chief Data Officer: Harnessing Big Data through cloud BI will enable SMBs to turn every single employee into a data analyst.

How useful Big Data proves to be for you depends on how well you identify your goal and match the data to that goal.

"For big data to be useful to small businesses, the business must have the right kind of data," says Brian Hawn, marketing communicator of RAI Stone Group. "This means that the analysis and utilization of that data is imperative to the successful implementation of the data."

"Think of data like food -- all kinds of food is available to us, but not all food is good for us," Hawn added. "Too much food is not good for us either. Same with data; a correct 'data diet' will keep your company lean, fit and healthy."

Pam Baker has written for numerous leading publications including, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, the NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers.

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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This article was originally published on May 15, 2012
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