Big data underpins your ability to leverage technology to excel in the digital economy — learn more about how to take advantage.

Businesses are generating more data from more sources than ever before—social media, point of sale, websites, IoT sensors, RFID, CRM and more. But too few have comprehensive systems in place to take advantage of that data in a timely way. 

Best-selling author and futurist Bernard Marr argue that every business needs a data and analytics strategy, because “…a company’s ability to compete will increasingly be driven by how well it can leverage data, apply analytics and implement new technologies.”

Marr says that it’s not about collecting as much data as possible. Instead, think about the role data can play in helping you achieve strategic business goals: define the key challenges and business-critical questions that need answering and then focus on the data required.

As always, focus on business benefits:

      • Improved customer service
      • Better cash flow
      • Happier team members

Ask yourself – how can technology, digital transformation and data help me achieve these business goals?

More data doesn’t automatically equal more business value

Having accurate data in the first place, and then processing and analysing it effectively are barriers many businesses face.

A 2019 report on data practices, based on a survey of more than 500 decision-makers across the US and UK revealed that 20% of businesses had lost a customer due to incomplete or inaccurate information about them. 

Other missteps caused by lack of good insights included inaccurate financial forecasts (22%), and offering too much credit to a customer (17%).

What are your ‘needles’ and how will you find them?

Big data is a term that describes large and complex data sets. Data may be drawn from a variety of sources and be of varied quality, and be structured or unstructured. There is no doubt that in this modern, connected world, the number of data sources available to small and medium-sized businesses is ever-increasing. 

Big data is the figurative ‘haystack’ and each answer drawn out of that data represents a ‘needle’. 

Common ‘needles’ businesses are looking for include:

      • a clear picture of buyer behaviour and preferences,
      • knowledge of who your most profitable customers and most high-risk customers are, and 
      • the ability to forecast sales, purchasing requirements and cash flow months in advance.

Creating a data repository combined with integrated business and data management systems will enable you to extract reliable insights that support better business decisions.

What tools help businesses leverage big data?

For big data to be made meaningful, businesses need to overcome a number of challenges: these include capturing, securing, managing, processing, querying, analysing, visualising, sharing and updating data effectively.

The need to generate and safely gather and categorise massive chunks of enterprise data effectively makes the case for enterprise solutions with scalable, cloud-based storage capacity. 

An Enterprise Planning Solution (ERP) makes it easier to synthesise and categorise data from across your business functions including customer management, sales, purchasing, production, inventory, logistics, and finance.

Innovative ERP solutions on the market incorporate in-memory processing to handle large data sets, analytics and business intelligence dashboards, and AI-driven automation tools

Leading ERP solutions are also built on open, cutting-edge technologies. That enables seamless integration with third-party data warehousing, analytics, business intelligence and reporting tools that consolidate data from your ERP and multiple other sources to mine data in real-time. 

In a connected ecosystem, dealing with large volumes data volumes from different sources is simplified: giving you a structured and dependable approach to data management.

[RELATED – A Data management guide for mid-sized companies

Get the answers you need by taming big data

Accurate information about current performance and reliable guidance on the best way forward is growth drivers. You can’t adapt and improve if you don’t know what works (or doesn’t). And you can’t plan ahead without a firm grasp on trends and predictive models you can trust.

Effective big data management delivers clarity and foresight. Prioritise a strategic and unified approach to illuminating the insights hiding in big data. 

There are multiple steps to successful data usage

Let’s take some practical advice on big data analytics.

      • Collect data – what are your mechanisms for collecting data? What are your data sources? How is data stored? How secure is your data? Start with a few smaller data sources. Make sure that you understand the sample data and have meaningful insight into the data before your even start with the data analysis. This will form the basis of a test case for data analytics – before you venture into full data collection mode. For example, you might decide to start with data from a single data source – sales data from CRM or sales data from ERP. Start small and test, then get ready to open up to additional data sources and big data. 
      • Sort data – what systems do you have available to sort and analyse data? As with collecting data, start with a smaller data source and test your ability and systems available to sort data. You will want to start by sorting through a smaller data source before you go with big data. Take our earlier example of starting with sales analysis data from ERP. Sort through the data based on specific timeframes, customer properties and order status. This test and learn environment will enable you to test out different scenarios and will give you insight into how automated or manual your data sorting capability is – before you scale with big data.
      • Prioritise data – far too often we see companies purely focused on the basics of managing their ERP solution and not focusing on data collection and data analysis. Allocate budget, management time and focus to the data collection process. By making data collection and analysis important to your business, you will get results.
      • Analyse data – use data analysis tools – BI or equivalent – to slice and dice your data. Once again, understand your data analysis structure and outcomes. How manual is the process? How timely is the data and reporting? How quickly can you run an analysis? Can you drill down to get a detailed analysis at a granular level? If you are answering no to some of these questions, you might need to “pivot” and re-evaluate your data analysis tools.
      • Make decisions – now for the fun part – use data analytics to make decisions and then……
      • Test the outcomes – are you getting, better, more timely decisions from data?

Leverage Technologies can help your business establish systems to capitalise on big data. Call us on 1300 045 046 or email [email protected].