While a lot of hype has been gradually building in recent years about "big data" and its usefulness to companies of all sizes, there's still a great deal of uncertainty out there about what the term really means. There are a lot of things that business leaders generally agree on - for instance, there's little doubt that it's important to maintain strong data quality - but a lot that people still don't understand.
According to Business News Daily, this is especially a problem at the small business world. For many aspiring entrepreneurs that are just starting out, big data is one big mystery. They have a vague notion that analytics can help take them to the next level, but they don't fully understand how it will all fall into place.
In broad strokes, there are a few things that small business owners still need to learn before they can tackle full-blown analytics initiatives.
What "big data" means
What does it really mean to get into analytics? It's not entirely clear. But Kevin Woo, president of digital analyticsfirm Pointmarc, opined that "big" data refers to gaining a bigger, broader understanding of your customer base.
"If you can gain a holistic view of your customer by connecting all of your different data capture points, you have the opportunity to vastly improve both the immediate user experience and the long-term perception of your brand," Woo said. "In the age of the empowered consumer, the execution of big data strategies will prove to be one of the largest differentiators."
This is a trend that is global and rapidly increasing in scope.
How analytics can help them
What can companies do with data that will actually optimize their operations and add to their bottom lines? April Wilson, president at analytics services provider Digital Analytics 101, says it's a matter of taking existing customers and figuring out how to squeeze additional revenue out of them.
"Big data is just a fancy way of saying you want to capture as much information about a person as you possibly can and figure out how to make money off of that information," Wilson said. "In retail, for example, they might want to know if you open emails, how often you purchase in-store versus online, how often you browse the website before purchasing, what you're posting on your social media accounts, and if you open promotional emails."
What costs are involved
How much does it cost to get into analytics? In reality, not much. Some major corporations spend a massive amount of money on high-end data tools and large staffs, but that's not the only way to dip a toe in the proverbial waters. Mark Herschberg, chief technology officer at Madison Logic, says there are other ways.
"Even a small company can have big data," Herschberg said. "As more and more services move to the cloud, you can use big data tools for as a little as a few hundred dollars a month."
How to incorporate technology
So how do companies make this work? What technologies do they need, and how difficult is it to deploy them? Charles Caldwell, principal solutions architect for Logi Analytics, explored this topic for Business News Daily. He says it's primarily a matter of surveying the specific needs of an enterprise and taking shrewd action.
"Worry about what really matters in your business, and then ask how the technology might help you execute better around those things," Caldwell said.
This is sound advice. Every company can benefit on some level from exploring analytics - it's just a matter of figuring out precisely how to make it work.