Posted 26 May 2016
Are you a small business who's avoided using a business intelligence programme?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that these programmes are too large-scale and complex for a small business to incorporate. Until recently, this was more or less true.
Whichever sector you are part of, you’ve almost certainly heard of Big Data. You're probably also familiar with the ways in which large companies use it to improve their business strategies. The emergence of specially-designed software for use by small businesses is helping to level the playing field. In spite of Big Data’s costly and complicated façade, it can be an affordable, simple and rewarding addition to your process.
What is Big Data?
In short, Big Data refers to data too vast to be processed via traditional technologies. Instead, it requires specifically-designed technologies or analytical methods. Big Data draws business intelligence from text, audio, image and video in real-time, and detects patterns. Using these patterns, businesses can get a better understanding of their market, competition and customer, and make informed business decisions.
Isn’t Big Data for Big Spenders?
In the past, software providers concentrated on big companies, but the economy generated by small businesses – which to date constitutes 99% of all UK-based business – warranted technology specifically for small businesses. By creating specially-designed software for the processing of small business data, providers made Big Data a cost-efficient and achievable tool for smaller-scale companies.
An increasing market of Big Data software providers is emerging, the majority of whom operate on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis. This provides a comprehensive and user-friendly service in exchange for a regular subscription fee. This means that once your software is in place, you can get on with the important jobs, with the assurance that data is being monitored.
What’s in it for Me?
Big Data is a valuable resource for keeping up with today’s market. The prevalence of social media brought a new level of connectivity (and, with it, a new level of data collection) to running a business, and an important step in succeeding is in going with the flow, and catering to your customer. So, by getting clued up about your customer’s interests, turn-ons and turn-offs, and what gets them motivated, you can improve the ways in which your business appeals to its clientele.
For a small business, Big Data offers many clues as to how to reach the next stage. Identifying buying and social media trends can reveal latest crazes to put in your window; tracking the flow of traffic on your website can advise you on what your customer likes and dislikes, and which techniques you’ve used that are worth continuing. Knowing your stats means you can move with the demand in the same way that large companies do.
What kind of software do I need?
There are three key features you should look for when scoping the market for a suitable business intelligence software provider. This ensures that you get the results you need from your software, with the least outgoing and maintenance.
Cost should be watched. The best software providers offer small business solutions on a SaaS basis, enabling the service to become just one of your regular costs, without unexpected charges popping up. As providers are often equipped to deal with large companies too, it’s important to make sure a software and payment programme suited to the scale (and potential growth) of your business are selected.
Ease of use is important, and can save you money too. While providers like to offer all-inclusive services with technical support thrown in, this costs more. By pumping your own gas, you drop the need to pay an attendant to do it for you, so to speak. Self-service is an option for most software, via a user-friendly platform through which data can be accessed, monitored and arranged.
Expertise will ensure you have a plan best suited to your business and the way you operate. Make sure you select a provider that can offer personal support (even if you want to go self-service), and can integrate the new business intelligence tool with your current system, if you have one. They will also be able to customise your software, to ensure your needs are catered to but you aren’t paying for any unnecessary features.
Big Data is a Step Up
Proper use of Big Data will see you stay at the top of your game, and remain highly competitive. By ensuring you are level not only with other competitors of your scale, but with the big players too, you secure your customer base, grow a new one, and cement your business’s position on the market landscape.