Is big data just for the big players? Many SME owners shy away from taking advantage of big data in their business operations. However, commentators (including experts at Forbes) have been challenging the presumptions behind this practice. Big data is indeed useful for smaller businesses, they argue. All that is needed is a concrete strategy for how best to deploy big data in the service of smaller projects.
What is big data? Dispelling some myths about its use
Big data consists, as its name indicates, in very large datasets. Usually, for a dataset to be classified as 'big data', the dataset will need to be so large that traditional data processing software will be unable to deal with it. Moreover, these datasets will be so large that they cannot be checked and analysed manually by human employees. This can pose a problem for smaller businesses, who do not always purchase the high powered software packages that are needed to process big data. Nevertheless, big data is available to all via the Cloud, and these software packages are usually either free or highly affordable.
Myths about big data that you might have believed in
Criticisms leveled at big data have included the ideas that it is a mere 'fad', that it is only useful for bigger companies, that it is unethical to gather large amounts of information about customers' lives and habits and that only larger companies can process big data due to the additional resources that are required. In actual fact, it looks like big data is here to stay, and smaller enterprises can certainly crunch those numbers using huge data sets if they want to. There are plenty of resources available for SMEs. As these articles explain, a good software package will also provide you with visualization tools that enable you to turn big data into graphics that can be absorbed at a glance. Perfect for giving presentations to employees and clients, and ideal for anyone who prefers to learn in a more visual way.
How to use big data effectively in your small business
One of the main reasons why small business owners can feel reluctant to incorporate big data in their business strategy is that they feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information out there. The truth is that no business, however large, needs every single piece of data in a given big data dataset. The trick is to know what questions to ask of the data so that you can isolate those strings of data that are relevant to your aims. Big businesses have to do this too - it's not just small businesses that need to find strategies to narrow down and make sense of big data. There is absolutely no need to analyse or process the entire dataset in detail. Decide what you want to find out, and which types of data will be most useful for answering your question. Home in on the parts of your dataset that are relevant to your question and analyse those. It may be just 10 pieces of data that you need, or it may be 1, 000. This instantly makes the dataset more manageable.
Try using big data today
Integrating big data into your small business's way of working is not difficult. Any interaction with your business (such as a credit card transaction on your e-commerce site) can provide you with invaluable information about your customers' habits. Data such as this is also automatically generated and logged by your business - there is no need to go onto external cloud based websites to access the dataset. Why waste the opportunities provided by this big data, which is simply lying around, ready for you to make use of it? Select some appropriate big data processing software and see what it can do for you. Processing big data in this way makes planning for the future and adapting your business model to your customers' tastes and to their purchasing patterns much easier.
James Pointon is a Communications Expert and a Big Data Practitioner from Sydney, Australia. Currently, James is using his knowledge and experience to support OpenAgent. Learn more about James on his LinkedIn.