Remember big data?
Big data was introduced way back in 2005. It was intended to describe the harnessing of critical information from disparate systems and situating that information into one place for analysis. It was the sort of innocuous term that seemed like nothing more than the latest buzzword we could all ignore.
Do you want the truth? Many small companies did just that. They gave the concept of big data the cold shoulder. To them, it was just another fad, a ship passing in the night, barely seen under the light of a pale moon. However, there are vital reasons to pay attention to big data, even if you’re a little guy.
Data Is Extremely Important
First and foremost, data — and, more specifically, an abundance of the “right kind” of data — is the lifeblood of any business. As the old saying goes, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” and in today’s world, you can’t measure many meaningful business metrics without data.
In our super-connected world, data represents the all-important voice of the customer. Not all customer data comes from your ERP system. You must also take into consideration data from user reviews and surveys from myriad sources such as tweets and other social media posts.
Consider the demand for your product created by one tweet. Whose inventory strategy can react quickly? The opposite is also true. One social media post criticizing your product, and the negative ramifications are swift and severe. Harnessing big data from structured and unstructured data sources resolves these issues to a large extent.
Big Companies Use Big Data
If you’re a small business and you need one good reason to pay attention to big data, here it is: because your largest competitors do.
Have small companies suffered from a dispassionate approach to big data? They would likely argue they have not, but I believe the truth is that they have — and they will continue to be left behind. This is something small business owners can no longer afford to ignore because things have changed. As a small business owner, ignoring big data can be a perilous proposition. Consider what has changed in the fifteen years since you first heard of big data but chose to ignore it.
In the years since big data first hit the scene, data has largely migrated to the cloud. Following that migration came software strategies and, you guessed it, disparate systems to seamlessly exchange what we refer to as structured data.
The problem is these systems still haven’t gotten good at aggregating their respective data pools for analytics and decision making. But they will. It’s coming, and the companies that capitalize on it will cross the finish line first. Layer in AI and ML technology, and you have what we commonly call a “competitive advantage.”
Social Media Is Key For Big Data
Another change since big data was introduced is the incredible explosion of new social media platforms. We no longer live in a world of just Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Today, there are more than 50 such sites, many of which are based outside the United States.
Not important, you say? It is if you have customers in other countries. Everything that can happen on a social media outlet can serve as a powerful validation or criticism of your product or service value. The videos, posts, likes, dislikes and comments are what we consider “unstructured data” and are a key component to the big data equation. If you figure this out, you really have something. In 2005, only 5% of adults in the U.S. were using social media. Today, that figure is 72%.
‘There’s An App For That’
Since 2005, a phrase has entered everyone’s daily language: “There’s an app for that.” The proliferation of apps for just about everything has generated countless downloads to do just about everything from recording calories to telling you when your car needs an oil change.
As you use these apps, they collect and store data. If you are the company deploying the app and you have not determined how to combine the data with your traditional ERP information, you are missing the boat.
Big Data In Today’s World
Still not convinced that big data is important? Consider that this year, COVID-19 has created a new normal for the entire planet. Your company is likely working in part or completely remotely. Measuring productivity and customer satisfaction just became more challenging. How do you take the data from conferencing apps and your customers’ sentiments from the aforementioned social media outlets and harness it in combination with your ERP data? The world and the way we work has changed forever.
Due to COVID-19, the words “supply chain” are now recognizable and meaningful to many. Just ask anyone who has had trouble buying toilet paper as of late. All the structured and unstructured data we have discussed, coupled with world events such as pandemics, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns and war, can disrupt supply chains directly and indirectly. Critical business functions including determining points of manufacture and distribution as well as levels of inventory are all affected. The good news is that harnessing all the available data in concert with supply chain optimization software and relevant expertise can mitigate risk for your company.
New technologies and other world events will always serve to create new data challenges for small business owners. Will you be ready? Remember, the ability to gather data from disparate sources and analyze it for strategic decision-making is the key to the gold mine. Your job is to get there before the competition.