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Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Highlights
  • The key strength of big data analysis is gaining business visibility, especially around customers.
  • Big data’s benefits aren’t limited to the commercial space – charities and research organisations are also benefitting.

The internet – and the devices it connects – has become central to the way we interact. What many may not know is how much data is created and collected from all global digital interaction.

Fuelled by the internet of things and our use of devices, it’s no surprise that the amount of data we generate is growing. Data analysts predict that by 2025, 463 exabytes of data will be generated across the globe every day. An ‘exabyte’ has 18 zeros, if you’re wondering.

Three people in a work meeting

Big data combines multiple information sources including social media, customer relationship systems, eCommerce and web interactions to develop insights. The sheer size of the data sets involved can lead to a perception that big data analysis and its commercial benefits are exclusive to large organisations such as banks, insurers and search giants such as Google – but this isn’t necessarily the case.

Large organisations might get more data, but you don’t need a large capital outlay to get better insights; you can source big data analytics via cloud services. Big data can help small and medium-sized businesses improve performance in many ways across industry sectors. Raj Dalal, founder of big data and analytics consultancy BigInsights, believes the key strength of big data analysis is gaining business visibility, particularly around customers. However, he says the benefits can take many forms.

Using the example of a car dealership, Dalal says big data has the potential to provide information on what a consumer is seeking before they even enter a showroom. And it can direct them towards one dealership in particular – which directly translates to revenue improvement.

“You want to know the whole sales pipeline, and if you can convince a small percentage of people who visit your website to walk into your showroom, then the greater the chance of you selling them something,” he says.

From there, businesses can use big data to keep those new customers loyal. A growing trade franchise might use it to test the return on their marketing investment; to find out what strategies are actually getting new customers on the books. 

However, these are simpler examples. A small-but-growing winery or brewery might use big data to understand its sales volumes, eliminating waste and expense at the manufacturing stage, says Dalal. And it is in these latter sectors that businesses need to be playing the long game. Sensors that can monitor anything from soil quality to machine performance are rapidly becoming more accessible to businesses and are expected to play a big role in business analytics.

“Sensors are being deployed in all aspects of business because their cost is dropping dramatically and leading companies are using that data to optimise business for whatever they’re deployed,” he says.

Big data’s benefits aren’t limited to the commercial space. Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision (MRV), winner of the 2016 Telstra Australian charity award, is a philanthropically supported organisation focused on bone marrow failure syndrome. MRV has taken its first steps in creating a multi-state information hub to compare diagnostic and treatment options for the disease across Australia. And the team believes that once the analytical tools are in place, the database may vastly improve understanding of the disease.

Entering into big data analytics doesn’t require moving mountains, but Dalal says smaller businesses may need a little IT help. The first step for any business, he says, is to ensure its customer-relations systems and web technology is modern enough to keep pace with big data analytics systems. Many are just too old to capture the data required and it can’t easily be moved into a cloud-based analytics environment. “There’s a lot of stuff you just can’t get data in and out of,” says Dalal.

For some businesses, such an overhaul may seem overwhelming. However, if you start with a small project at a low cost, you can experiment and build from there.

Original article published on March 3rd 2017.

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