How Big Data Boosts Small Business
The US economy is built on entrepreneurship and the expansion of small business. Small companies create 70 percent of new jobs. In-house technology also allows companies to capture a steady stream of data on processes such as manufacturing output, warehousing, order fulfillment, fleet operations, and many other operations.
But with the rise of the internet, social media, and Wi-Fi technology, we’re seeing more digital operations moved to the cloud, and marketing in particular. This enables companies to capture all kinds of consumer activity related to sales, demographics, and specific ad campaigns.
We’re now producing an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. This has long become known as “big data” because the sheer volume of it is impossible to organize and process effectively without business intelligence (BI) software. Digital tools allow you to integrate everything from Facebook “likes” to vendor performance into one cohesive data repository that can be sliced-and-diced to make business decisions. This may include predictive analytics that use historical data to generate forecasts on sales, productivity, and consumer or hiring trends.
BI was once seen as the prerogative of big business, requiring a considerable investment in powerful software and hardware that could quickly sift gigabytes of raw data into tidy statistics. But cloud solutions are now making big data an affordable alternative for small business. Thanks to SaaS (software-as-a-service) and greater network bandwidths, you can now access both stored data and BI software over the internet from a cloud provider. And there’s no investment beyond a manageable monthly charge. This allows small business to compete equally with corporations in leveraging data. Your organization’s specific dataset will be unique to your customers, products, and operations, providing insights that form a competitive advantage in your own niche market.
Most big tech and software companies have transitioned from offering software that had to be installed and maintained on your business network to offering access to big data applications on their own servers. This saves on the time and troubles of installation and deployment as well as the costs of your own hardware or specialized IT staff. Now you only need an internet connection to take advantage of some of the best and most user-friendly BI platforms available. Some of these companies also provide hybrid or highly customizable services.
As one example, consider Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the first cloud services, produced from the internet giant famous for shopping. AWS has expanded to solutions like Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) for analytics. It can work seamlessly with programs like Apache Kafka, a low-latency data streaming platform. Kafka on AWS can provide small businesses of any type with a high-performance means of moving large datasets over the internet.
Big Data Impact
Modern big data solutions can help to provide fast answers to complex problems that not only provide a competitive advantage today, but help to build and sustain business continuity. At one time IT specialists were needed to write complex data queries, but now simpler web-based interfaces let you select the options you need to instantly generate information such as who is buying which types of product, when peak sales periods occur, which ads people are responding to, and even categorize and understand actual customer feedback.
Big data and BI solutions enable you to better identify your target market and stay in touch with what they are looking for in products and services. The best way to optimize your efforts and your bottom line is to stay on top of consumer trends, and modern big data solutions allow you to do that in nearly real time.
Even today, it’s estimated that only 0.5 percent of data is actually used. Analytic software is becoming steadily more affordable and flexible so that data will be leveraged much more effectively. Every small business should consider making big data solutions a priority.