Traditionally, big data has been solely the fare of large companies. This status has been perpetuated by two myths SMBs fall for. First, they believe that big data is made for big business. In other words, if they do not have an enormous amount of data, they have no use for big data. In fact, the definition of big data is simply that information which cannot be used with conventional technologies; somewhat counterintuitively, advice often provided to SMBs integrating big data is to “start small.”

Second, SMB owners may believe that big data is inherently expensive. While that has been true in the past, open source software like Hadoop and existing company resources have made big data affordable, transformative and vital. With its ability to drive new customer experience, augment informational value and enable data monetization, big data is quickly becoming a technology that SMBs will not be able to afford operating without.

Benefits of adopting big data

The use of big data and analytics is widespread among midmarket companies. A recent Techaisle report found that 71% of firms with 100 to 999 employees are already using big data. Businesses mostly use this technology to get a picture of operations and to improve processes rather than predicting future trends. Using big data, SMBs are often able to:

  • Improve overall profitability and cut costs
  • Monitor operations and processes and improve them
  • Reach out to new customers
  • Develop new offers
  • Manage risks and unknown factors

Challenges to adopting big data

Despite these broad benefits, there are some challenges that SMBs should be ready to face when investing in this technology. When gathering data, inaccuracies are bound to occur – especially when a human element is involved. Low data quality can severely diminish the potential benefit of using big data.

Even though the costs to implement big data are falling, interpreting the data and creating an actionable plan based on that interpretation often requires SMBs to hire a new team member. In addition (and by definition), many SMBs will need to upgrade their old intelligence tools that were not designed for big data, thus further increasing short term capital expenditures.

Finally, some firms view each of their processes as different entities. These companies may need to shift their entire culture in order to see the big picture with big data. The sheer size of the dataset may prove this to be problematic, so it is best to focus on internal data, narrowing the dataset to a few key analytics.

It is crucial for SMBs to figure out which questions they need to answer with big data, which datasets are valuable to analyze and how they will be used to create an actionable plan. Big data and analytics are becoming increasingly accessible to smaller companies. A proper implementation can yield tremendous benefits for your company and your customers.