Approximately 90% of all electronic data that has ever existed has been created in the last two years. Businesses are generating and holding rapidly growing volumes of data, and from a wider range of sources than ever before. As technology is increasingly leveraged to support business growth (either through customer interactions or manufacturing process management), the associated data is collected and stored, creating ‘Big Data’.
Presently, a myriad of Big Data solutions are offered by the industry’s major players (Hadoop, IBMC et al), and it is a sector which, according to many analysts, will be worth more than US$40 billion in five years’ time.
One common factor among the majority of Big Data offerings is their clear targeting towards larger, more corporate organizations. With their greater ability to absorb implementation costs and more disparate data sources to draw from, these businesses were the early adopters of such solutions.
The larger corporate entities were also much more likely to be employing chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs), who were able to translate the tech jargon associated with Big Data into benefits for their business.
Times have moved on, but one gets the sense that Big Data providers haven’t necessarily followed in sync where small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are concerned. The declining cost and resulting proliferation of technology mean that it’s not only the larger businesses which are now able to amass ‘Big’ volumes of data, and thus have a need for solutions to extract value from this data.
Big Data, big opportunity?
Big Data solutions present genuine opportunities in which SME’s can utilize data that they collect and own to help level the playing field. However, at present there are few genuinely SME-tailored solutions in the marketplace.
SME Big Data solutions:
1) Customer behavioral data can help planning and development – Analyzing B2B customer purchasing data to understand patterns and allow the business to both plan for, and react to these in real time (e.g. automatic stock ordering to match monthly purchasing cycles).
Using B2C customer website behavioral data to deliver real-time interceptions/engagement (e.g. alternate or complementary products/offers) to help improve conversion rates.
2) Process/production data can support flexibility and drive business efficiencies – Tracking and monitoring production processes and suppliers in real time can allow businesses to adjust their process priorities to maximize efficient use of resource and materials (e.g. managing supplier production chains to co-ordinate component deliveries and avoid storage costs).
Big Data, a big headache for SMEs?
There are two main barriers for SMEs in adopting Big Data solutions:
1) Jargon. This is an industry which thrives on the creation of buzzwords, with every vendor doing their best to own terminology which relates to its product offerings. However, there are fewer high-level technical professionals (CIO/CTO) in the SME sector.
2) Price. As the majority of Big Data solutions tend to be offered by companies which are better known for dealing with larger organizations, there is a perception among SMEs that the cost of implementing these programs would be prohibitive.
Three big rules for providers:
1) Speak in plain English. Not all SMEs are tech-savvy or have dedicated technology or data specialists- not all have the time to drill down through the technical jargon.
2) Demonstrate value. Give solid examples of how Big Data solutions can be used. The audience isn’t always going to be technical.
3) Focus on solutions. Scale down offerings so that the initial cost is less prohibitive and the strain on the existing network infrastructure is managed.
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