Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Big Data in Small Business

Big Data?
What is "Big Data?"

So much data and so little business intelligence. That’s the irony of the information age, which is adding another 2.5 quintillion bytes to the data universe each day. Companies can either get buried by this avalanche of big data or use technology tools to mine its riches. (Forbes.com) 

Big Data is a large collection of information, no matter the size of the information itself.  While the size of data is part of what makes up Big Data, other factors include the speed that the data is generated, the number and variety of sources providing the information (Volume, Velocity, and Variety).  Big Data is any attribute that challenges constraints of a system capability or business need.

Big data is able to exist because of the attributes of the "cloud."  These attributes include economies of scale, affordability, agility and the extensible nature of the cloud.

How is Big Data Growing Today?
Many different organizations are gathering extremely large amounts of data.  Retailer Databases gather consumer transactions and behaviors.  Logistical, financial and health care data is gathered showing the patterns and behavior of the economy and markets around the world.  Also, social media such as Facebook, Youtube, Linked In, and Twitter gather personal information about people everywhere.

Why does Big Data matter if I work in a small business?
Many of us work in a small or medium-sized business where large amounts of data within our organization can be difficult to gather.  Big Data is commonly used by large corporations that house the vast amounts of data, but the most recent trend shows small businesses getting involved.

Finding meaning and relationship in all the chaos of Big Data is the challenge, but necessary to unlock its value.  If a small business is able to gather some of the Big Data to analyze and choose to act on that analysis  it could generate significant profits and cost reductions that will help the business grow.

Tips for using Big Data in a small business (Forbes.com)
  • Establish a bidirectional digital channel – interactive website and social media presence — to get the data points you need to start accessing big data.
  • The goal is to capture, sort and analyze relevant data from as many sources, and in as close to real time as possible.
  • There is power in knowing what data not to track. Avoid getting distracted or buried in data by keeping a laser focus on gathering the customer intelligence that will help your business grow.
  • Don’t assume! Gather information directly from your customers by engaging with them via social media. Don’t make guesses about what they want. There is power to the “Like” button. It promotes your Net Promoter Score – a customer loyalty metric, while also providing insights into the demographics and the purchase pulse of your customers.
  • Google AnalyticsAlexaFacebook Insights and Quantcast can capture relevant data from digital media and generate a wealth of valuable information – and you don’t need a data expert to use them. You learn what search queries customers most often use, which images and pages visitors click on first – and what paths they take from there – and use this information to optimize your site and increase sales.
Example of Small Business using Big Data:
Big oil companies and their gas station operators can use analytics to know exactly what a price increase or decrease of even a few cents means to sales and margins. How about the independent companies that may have only two or three gas stations? An analytics service that tracks gas sales, price changes, weather, holiday timeframes, and other factors could mean better sales and margins.
That analysis wouldn't have to be limited to sales of gas. Since so many gas stations are convenience stores with pumps, any analysis service would have to consider things like what a two-cent boost in gas prices does to sales of salted snacks, rubbery hot dogs, and sugary soft drinks.

For more Big Data and Small Business reading and information, follow these links:
Youtube: Big DataExplaining Big Data
The Next Web: What Big Data Means for Small Business
SAS: Small Business, Big Data
Spent 3 hours reading and watching videos on subject, 1 hour writing post.


  1. Great advice for the uses of data.

    Assuming causal inferences based on data trends can be very dangerous if the assumption is the underlying basis for a strategic decision. It is always a good practice to continue to explore and test multiple hypothesis when answering "why" questions.

  2. Informative. I had never heard of this term. It makes sense though considering that we are living during an information explosion. It was just a matter of time before this was going to be problem that we would have to work through. Interesting that this issue isn't just hitting the big companies but, like you mentioned, the small ones too.

  3. Great post. When I think of Big Data, I generally connect that with large corporations that use it for strategy and operational uses, but I hadnt considered before how Big Data can also be valuable to small companies as well. Thanks to the incredible access small companies now have to big data, it really can be a goldmine of information that can help them grow if used correctly.