The Big Data Revolution and How Small Organizations Are Adapting

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Big Data Small Business x300by Ezekiel James

When you think of Big Data, odds are you think about large, enterprise organizations and how they implement Big Data solutions to analyze and interpret massive data sets so they can make key data-driven decisions. In fact, this is at the forefront of the Big Data conversation. What isn’t talked about too much is the reality that small businesses (SMBs) and their imminent adoption of practical Big Data solutions.

The big misconception is that small businesses only produce small data, which is inherently false. What analyst and major Big Data thinkers are finding is that SMBs are also producing massive amounts of data that need to analyzed and used for big decision-making initiatives. The difference is that while data produced in the SMB space is not as big as the enterprise, it is still massive. In other words, since Big Data in the SMB world looks a little different, smaller organizations should and will adapt a little differently.

In this article we will take a closer look at this adaptation process, and just how small and mid-sized organizations are faring in the midst of the Big Data explosion.

Introducing Big Little Data

For many smaller organizations, when faced with the Big Data question, the implementation prospect seems overwhelming, and often unrealistic. In fact, for a large chunk of SMBs, Big Data is virtually impossible to implement without massive budgetary resources and infrastructure set in place.

According to TrackVia, a Cloud-based database management solutions provider, this concept of big little data is making headway in the SMB and mid-sized business community. Why? Well, in very basic terms it takes the Big Data trend and makes it usable, actionable and manageable on the SMB level.

Essentially, this concept of big little data is taken from the idea that data should be visualized, analyzed, and used on the departmental level. Actually, you could easily refer to this concept at “micro Big Data.” This simplified Big Data concept operates on the assumption that data centric goals should be very specific, and fairly easy to execute. In short, big little data allows SMBs to simply gather and analyze the information needed for a specific task or process, as opposed to massive data overload common to Big Data processes.

To be fair, there’s no doubt that SMBs are limited in when it comes to Big Data. On the smaller scale, these organizations do not have terabytes upon terabytes of data to sift through, nor do they have the infrastructure or access to Data Management gurus like Data Scientists to help them sift through this data. In a nutshell, SMBs need an alternative. TrackVia’s Charles Var unpacks this a bit further:

“Lots of businesses, regardless of their size, have good data that they collect – they either know or they don’t. And there’s certainly more tools available than ever – whether that’s a company like TravkVia or QuickBase – where a non-technical person can pretty easily import that data into a relational database in order to get meaningful insights into their business.”

The Downside of Big Data for Small Business

The other hard reality when it comes to Big Data for SMBs comes down to limited infrastructure. While there are solutions available that make life easier for small businesses they adapt to the world of Big Data, it will be impossible for them to truly gain deep analytical insights. So while it is possible for the average non-technical user to create basic Big Data applications, if a smaller organization needs sophisticated analytics tools, a lack of qualified Data Management talent significantly limits this capability.

But to be fair, this potential downside is still coming at Big Data from an enterprise perspective. Most SMBs will not need to leverage the same types of deep analytics that a large scale organization needs. They simply need to gather key insights that help them move their organizations in a forward direction.

The big challenge when it comes to SMB big data implementation is from an organizational standpoint, which according to TrackVia’s Charles Var, is that a large chunk of smaller organizations are not necessarily data minded, or at least not yet. It will take some time and discipline for these smaller companies to work Big Data into their business from a cultural standpoint. Again, this has a lot to do with the fact that these smaller organizations have very limited resources to dedicate to Big Data initiatives. In other words, these smaller organizations must be convinced of the value of Big Data before implementation will really take hold. This way to do this, according to Var, is by starting small. “Keep it simple,” Var explains. “You’re probably already tracking data that you don’t realize. These may be receipts. This may be a cash register. This may be inventory. So, just doing it in a consistent way would be helpful.” From here these organizations will start to see trends in their data, which will help them make better, more informed business decisions.

Small-Scale Big data and the Enterprise

While it’s hard to gauge whether or not a burgeoning Data Management concept will shift practices on the enterprise level, it’s not that hard to look at trends to see how that is affecting how business problems are solved. For instance, there’s the growing trend of IT consumerization with Cloud-based tools like DropBox, Box.com, and even applications like Evernote that essentially allow individuals to solve their own business problems without having to send a request to the IT department.

The other reality is that enterprise organizations use Big Data management systems that often to large and cumbersome for the average user to even access, let alone use and apply to their business tasks in any sort of meaningful way. As a result of the consumerization of TI solutions, data visualizations are being simplifies so that key data insights can be viewed and accessed by non-technical users on the departmental level.

For instance, if you are a sales professional and you simply need to access last month’s sales data, odds are you don’t need to view all of the deep analytics information from the entire Salesforce CRM. You simply need a snapshot of the sales data that directly affects your department. This is likely where small-scale Big Data solutions will infiltrate the enterprise – as a segmented approach to solving business problems in a more useful and meaningful way.

Conclusion: Is Big Data Overwhelming organizations?

The short answer is, probably. The longer answer is a little more complex because every organization utilizes Big Data in a unique way, which makes it difficult to make these sorts of blanket statements. However, there is and should be a movement towards simplicity when it comes to Data Management – even on the macro level of Big Data. According to SAS blogger, Rick Wicklin, simplification and computational efficiency will be a valuable asset regardless of the data size. Even with enterprise-level Business Intelligence data, efficiency should be a core principle. The bottom line is that Big Data is quite overwhelming to organizations of all types, but it certainly does not have to be.

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