‘Big’ data: Why size doesn’t matter

Of all the current technology buzzwords and expressions being made popular by IT sales people (cloud, artificial intelligence, internet of things… and so on) ‘big’ data is the one that often comes over as the most intimidating for smaller businesses.

Just think about how it sounds. “Big. Data. (Cue booming Brian Blessed-style voice.) BIG. Data. BIIIIIG. Data. This data isn’t for the likes of you, you paltry little upstart! Stand aside, pipsqueak, and let the bloated corporates feast on their terabytes, analysing it to the nth degree, while you stick to your squirty little spreadsheets.”

You get the point.

Now think again. There has never been an easier – or more crucial – time for small businesses to start making better use of data. And the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that big to start making a difference to your organisation.

Experts often like to talk about the ‘five Vs’ of data analysis – the five things required for so-called big data to be worth its keep within an organisation: volume, veracity, variety, velocity and value.

Well, I can tell you right now that the least important of those is volume. It’s what you do with your data that matters way more than how much you actually have.

As long as you have access to current, accurate information that can be accumulated and shared with relative speed and ease (yes, even if it’s only on a spreadsheet, Brian), you can start to spot trends or reveal valuable insights. This, in turn, will soon start to help you make better business decisions, based on facts rather than guesswork.

The even better news is that the technology to deliver scary-sounding corporate acronyms that deal in data, such as ERP (enterprise resource planning)  and CRM (customer relationship management), is now easily within the reach of small businesses at a price that’s increasingly affordable. What’s more, these days they can be managed by people who don’t have a PhD in computer science and a propeller on their hat.

This is largely due to ‘off the peg’ cloud solutions being available at a fraction of the cost (and, frankly, a fraction of the hassle) from big tech companies like Salesforce and Oracle.

Here at Cognition24, we help both large and small customers take advantage of these leaps in technology. Just one example is an online retailer that processes upwards of 250,000 orders a year, run by a hard-working entrepreneur (who also happens to be a mum).

Chloe, their sales person, knows that at the end of each order is a human being. One example is an old lady – let’s call her Mavis. Mavis loves the anti-ageing products from this company, and she enjoys the personalised calls she has with Chloe, which feel like a friendly chat. Chloe uses the data she has available (thanks to a Salesforce CRM system) to ensure Mavis has the products she wants, the best deals available – and a friendly voice at the end of the phone who knows what she likes. As a result, Mavis’s loyalty to the company is off the scale.

And it goes without saying, if you’re not doing this kind of thing, your competitors are – or, at least, soon will be. In fact, I could point to dozens more examples from other businesses in a wide range of sectors, from utilities to hospitality to financial services, and everything in between.

So now is the time to get cracking.

The key – as with any business, large or small – is to know where to start and where to focus your limited resources. And the best way to do that is to get some advice from smart people who’ll take time to properly understand your challenges and opportunities, then apply years of experience to finding the right solutions.

But, whatever you do, stop listening to that intimidating Brian Blessed voice in your head. I mean, he’s actually only 5’ 8”.

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