Small data can pack a big punch for your business

Philip Brady of Canon suggests that SMEs can make better use of small data in order to gain that competitive edge.

Researchers from IDC predict that the digital universe is doubling in size every two years and will multiply 10-fold between 2013 and 2020 from 4.4 trillion gigabytes to 44 trillion gigabytes.

To give you some sense of perspective:

• The amount of data we currently hold would currently fill a stack of iPad Air tablets reaching two thirds of the way to the moon. By 2020, there will be 6.6 stacks.

• Today, the average household creates enough data to fill 65 iPhones per year. In 2020, this will grow to 318 iPhones.

• Today, if a byte of data were a gallon of water, in only 10 seconds there would be enough data to fill an average house. In 2020, it will only take two seconds.

Big data will continue to grow rapidly as the Internet of Things and wearable technology hook more data-collecting sensors into the network. But while everyone is scrambling to make sense of this vast and unstructured data, big is not always best.

It may sound odd, but the key to understanding business challenges actually lies with small data, the information that is used to determine the situation and is derived from big data through analysis. Focusing on the minutiae positively impacts performance because it’s this information that prompts activities based on what’s happening now.

To be successful, SME owners must help employees home in on the trends that will boost competitiveness and customer service.

That assistance should focus on four key areas: demand, analysis, presentation and refinement.

• First, recognise that you can’t measure what you don’t understand, so stop worrying about big data. Look to educate your business colleagues to allow the IT/person or team to discover the small details of the business’s broader aims.

• Take that awareness of business concerns to the analysis stage. Think about how the organisation collects data and how analytical tools could pull key information from siloed systems and databases. Work with your colleagues or employees and create a competitive landscape analysis in order to understand how this small data will help you with your long-term objectives.

• Then create a form of presentation, such as a dashboard, that gives you that intelligence in a digestible way. Focus on a dozen-or-so factors, such as sales, pipeline orders and customer satisfaction that will make a difference to the way they company operates, both now and in the future.

• Use small data, in short, to remove the guesswork from business processes. Rather than relying on broad campaigns, marketing professionals should work with IT executives and work out how to pull data from sources across the business. By focusing on small trends and minute details, the business can identify which clients matter and which products they are likely to buy.

• Small data can also be used to hone internal processes and facilitate sharing by getting workers across the organisation to collaborate and pool their knowledge. By tapping into cross-departmental experiences, the business can start to solve bigger challenges, such as latent talent gaps and long-standing customer service issues.

Once the marketing and IT team has completed its beta approach to small data, it’s important to feedback, which allows you to work with business colleagues to discover how objectives evolve over time and means the approach can be refined in response.

The amount of data held is growing at such a rate that any project will always remain a work in progress. But by creating a small data strategy, small businesses can stay one step ahead of its competitors.

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