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Do SMEs have a big data knowledge gap?

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Big data is often touted as a highly effective growth tool for SMEs, helping decision makers to drive performance and gain valuable insights to keep them ahead of their competitors. Recent research published by Warwick Analytics in association with the Alan Turing Institute seemed to confirm this – with manufacturing SMEs revealing tools such as ERP, BI and CRM identified “hidden information” within processes which provided business critical insights.

For SMEs who have yet to take advantage of extracting the value from big data, this can sound like a daunting prospect. The same survey revealed a notable lack of understanding of how big data works in practice – keeping ‘big data’ firmly in the buzzword stakes. Around half of respondents said they didn’t have a clear understanding of the difference between big data analytics, predictive analytics and business intelligence.

The crucial bit to get to grips with first is that big data isn’t all about technology – it’s strategy first, technology second. The first step for businesses that want to use big data analytics is to see how much data the company has at its disposal. Most companies collect volumes of process data but typically use it only for tracking purposes, not as a basis for improving operations. For these players, the challenge is to invest in the systems and skillsets that will allow them to optimise their existing process information. For example, by centralising data from multiple sources, data analysts can draw actionable insights and useful, decision-making information.

For businesses looking to extract maximum value from their data, the following steps would be a great place to start:

  • Define a strategy – Set your priorities and goals and build a roadmap – define what you’re looking to achieve
  • Clarify data requirements – Spell it out beforehand, ask (and answer) questions like: What’s the volume of data received? Who/what will be the recipient of this data? How do we retrieve it, process it, manage it, secure it?
  • Convince others in the company to get on board – Get the right players in your court, all C-level management, IT and an outside consultant if needed
  • Run a pilot project – Before you embark, it’s highly recommended to sponsor (pay for) and run a pilot project to build management’s confidence and validate your project strategy and roadmap
  • Set / define your Critical Success Factors – CSFs determine the value of your project from the get-go, so establish, implement and agree before you begin
  • Focus on structure – Use open, flexible and scalable tools that yield quick (but viable) results as opposed to a monster-sized app or system
  • Invest time in selecting the right vendor – There’s no “one tool fits all” so carefully scan and evaluate the market and its many vendors, as they come in all shapes, sizes and prices

Big data analytics can have a great impact on SMEs when it’s really put to good use, when it’s analysed, not just collected and stored. Once companies didn’t understand data. Nowadays, SMEs should focus on generating actionable data. Data to drive growth, push performance and to no longer be seen as just another meaningless buzzword.


Leor Barth

Leor Barth

Leor Barth is responsible for all of Priority’s engineering, development and testing activities. He leads the software development teams through all the stages of the product lifecycle, from concept to release. Leor joined Priority from Precise Software, where he served as Engineering Group Manager and oversaw the development of the Precise APM Suite. During his twelve years at Precise, Leor managed a number of development teams building performance monitoring software for the full technology stack, including ERP, application servers and databases. He also led the transition of Precise’s monitoring technologies to a cloud-based platform.

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Tags: Big Data, Business