At the end of each year publications, regardless of their audience, publish lists of top trends from the previous year. When it comes to tech, many noted that a new concept - big data - was gaining ground and becoming an increasingly popular trend. While big data is likely the next big thing in tech, you should be careful not to get too wrapped up in the idea just yet.
A study published in mid 2012 by Harris Interactive looked at what exactly big data is. The research polled 154 companies, more than half of which were small businesses, on what they think the definition of big data is. The results? No one really agrees on a definition of big data.
The survey found that 24% of respondents believed it's the technology that allows the management of massive amounts of data, while 28% believed it's the idea of massive growth of transactional data. The survey concluded that nearly 80% of businesses identify big data as some form of opportunity in the near future.
Beware of big data hype This goes to show that businesses are aware of the trend, and may feel that they have to be a part of it to gain any sort of competitive advantage in the near future. However, this is the wrong way to look at big data. The fact of the matter is, while big data is here to stay, many small business simply don't have the resources - monetary, staffing, knowledge, or otherwise - to launch big data initiatives.
Don't not focus on data The amount of data available and being generated is growing at an exponential rate, and even small businesses are overwhelmed with often unintelligible data. The danger is that if you turn your back on data you might soon find yourself lagging well behind your competitors.
If big data and ignoring data are out, what's left? The middle road, or in this case, small data. Take a look at your business and identify and prioritize the most important data for your business. For example, a dentist is probably going to want to know how many patients are walk-ins or appointments. From here, you can analyze the data and begin to pick out trends, anomalies and weaknesses, etc. Taking the dentist example above, if data identifies that walk-ins are 10 times heavier on a Monday morning, it may be better business practice to have more staff on Monday mornings to better deal with customer flow.
Baby steps leads to big data The key is to start in a small and manageable way. Focus on understanding critical data by getting to know how to collect and analyze it. This will provide a platform from which you can launch bigger data initiatives in the future. Once you are comfortable, you can introduce more advanced dashboards to better utilize your data. If you do methodically, you should be aligned perfectly to take advantage of big data when it becomes viable for all businesses.
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