A recent report from our friends at Aberdeen Research entitled “Big Data for Small Budgets” makes a few good points describing how the recent Big Data phenomenon can find usage and benefit even in smaller companies.
Big Data is a new-ish term used to describe the notion of analyzing massive quantities of computer data and analytics derived from your company’s data sources in ways that drive improved selling or operations. That’s not a technical definition, mind you, just our interpretation of what matters. It can mean aggregating data from sales, social networks, CRM and a host of other sources to provide you with better information about what drives your clients or customers to buy from you. The idea is that the more you know about these factors, the better job you’ll do attracting (and selling to) more of those customers.
The article points out two things that companies often believe get in their way. One is the rapid growth of data that tends to put great strain on growing infrastructures. IT departments struggle to aggregate data from disparate sources. Complaints include… it takes too long… the data is not accessible… it’s too sliced… or, the volume of data is simply growing too rapidly.
The other presumed limiter is that cost can be prohibitive for smaller organizations. In Aberdeen’s research, half the companies surveyed listed this cost as the great inhibitor to Big Data initiatives.
The flips side to these issues is the new business a Big Data initiative can provide. Surveyed organizations who engaged for such a project claimed a 12% year-over-year improvement in profits and grew their customer base by over 14% in the last year. These improvements were significantly better than those of companies without these initiatives.
Four technical areas were critical to success:
- Data integration – tools that allow companies to quickly and easily move data from one source to another
- In-memory computing – tools that provide high-speed data processing by utilizing RAM (as opposed to hard drives or other sources), thus providing data results 100 times faster
- Unstructured data management – tools (notably one called Hadoop) that allow firms to retrieve and analyze data from many disparate sources that don’t fit into the traditional relational database framework
- Data visualization – tools and business intelligence (BI) solutions that allow users to easily explore and digest information.
The Aberdeen report goes on to list a host of suppliers of Big Data solutions. Our only point is to point out that data is coming at you today from more sources than ever. Beyond the structured transactional data found in your ERP system, there’s also… social media; customer sentiment; unstructured internal data; human resources information; geographical information; digital and rich media; sensor data; and so on.
It’s a good time for even smaller companies to be thinking about this new era of ‘data collection’ in the newest sense of the word.
What are your key sources of customer info? Where does this info reside? Can you get at it? Can you analyze it readily, and turn it into meaningful business results? All food for thought…