Business and tech professionals are talking about big data. A successful big-data project can illuminate new patterns and prompt fresh ideas about a business’s products, services, and customers. Big data is about putting the information you’ve got — and the data you’ll bring in next — to new use.
But when it comes to your business, and when it comes to how big data impacts and stands to augment small-business owners in particular, what’s the difference between big data and just lots of data?
The distinction is important and there are some key questions that owners can ask to help identify and tackle distinctions like that one. Let’s look at five of them, a shortlist of ways to think about big-data and, for small-business owners, the big picture.
Big-Data: Questions for SMBs
“Big data is many things, but what it is not is a technology initiative,” said Jim Gallo, National Director of Business Analytics for ICC, an Ohio-based IT services provider. “Your IT department will be deeply involved in setting things up and making sure you’ve got the number crunching horsepower to ‘do’ big data, but it is an initiative driven by the business not the IT department.”
What Gallo suggests that business owners think about boils down to this: don’t work with big data because you think you’re supposed to, engage with it because your business demands it.
Some ways to frame an approach to big data are as follows.
1. What Do You Want to Know? A big data initiative should begin with owners and partners addressing how the technology stands to help the business achieve its objectives. If new ways of seeing incoming information seem likely to improve efficiencies, increase margins, or open avenues that will help the team to sell smarter, then big data may be a good choice.
2. Do You Have a ‘Big Data’ Problem or a ‘Lots of Data’ Problem? Just because a data set is large, that doesn’t automatically make it “big data”. Remember that the idea behind a big-data enterprise is to find and utilize the kind of connections that all this info-crunching can produce.
3. Is It Worth It? Define the value you will get from big data. Corporate decision-makers faced with escalating costs, shrinking budgets and conflicting priorities are not going to fund a solution without a solid business justification (and that usually means: ROI). Part of the answer is back in the What Do You Want to Know? question. Develop the practical side of the response from there.
4. Where Will the Data Come From? Once you’ve determined that big-data is what you need, you have identify potential data sources. There’s what’s in-house already, and that may be a significant source, but the information you’re after may take some serious integration work to capture, or you may have to bring it in from third-party sources like social media or public data sets. Assess how you’ll secure it.
5. Will It Work? The stakes can be high when working with new technology, so talk to experts — and ideally talk to owners similar to yourself who’ve embarked on a big-data effort of their own. The business world is learning its way into this newly accessible way of looking at information, and the lessons learned by the community of owners like yourself, in this early stage of the game, may prove critical to your own assessment. The best way to understand whether big-data will work for your business is to understand what it does in action. Find out who other big-data exploring owners are. Reach out. In a similar model: answers that will help as you move forward.
Want to dig deeper into big data and how it applies to business. ICC has published this white paper on the subject. More ways to learn. Good luck!