Big data isn’t just for big corporations: here’s how you can make the most of it in mid-market companies
In recent years, the news agenda has been flooded with stories of ambitious and impressive big data projects, such as the prediction of disease epidemics or high profile moves from Facebook and Amazon.
Although these stories are interesting and have thrust big data into the limelight, the concentration on large enterprises has put off some mid-sized businesses that often don’t have the resources required undertake projects of this scale.
For instance, a recent mid-market report from Deloitte showed that only 14 per cent of mid-sized businesses strive to stay at the cutting edge of technology ― a stat which suggests this sector does not see innovative or experimental technology as attainable. Despite this, the majority of businesses of this size are more than capable of implementing it.
It is important to remember that the ‘big’ in big data, does not simply refer to the volume of information, but also a growth in the range and the speed in which it is collected and acted on.
Although the volumes of data available to mid-market businesses are much less than the largest enterprises, by broadening the sources which are used to collect it, and integrating this across the organisation, the insights found could be just as important. In addition, due to the agility of mid-market businesses, they are able to derive value much quicker.
Crucially it is the agile nature of mid-market firms that enable them to implement big data strategies quickly. Although innovative technologies have traditionally been implemented by larger enterprises, the current economic climate, along with costs of replacing legacy technology, means that many will struggle to find the capital to experiment with big data and put it to proper use.
As the mid-market has emerged from the recession as the healthiest section of the UK economy, it has a great opportunity to use technology to grow its market share at the expense of larger providers.
Big data is having an increasingly important effect on all businesses. By taking the initiative and acting now, mid-market businesses have a great opportunity to gain a head start.
Getting the right data
For most mid-market businesses, there is already a treasure trove of data waiting to be analysed before any big data project has begun.
With digital already forming a large part of the majority of businesses, there is already a whole host of data available to analyse – including Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, CRM, emails and website information. As a starting point, it makes sense to assess all departments to work out where data can be collected.
By augmenting this with the reams of data freely available online, such as weather data or social media, businesses can rapidly gather a whole range of information suitable for analysis. By comparing these disparate data sources and identifying patterns within them, they can start to find actionable insights.
For example, by comparing sales data with feedback from the customer service department, businesses can spot patterns that precede dips in sales, or increase activities that are improving them. Alternatively, by spotting problems within the business, and applying data in order to identify causes, business will often find that data provides them with the tools that have previously held them back.
In order to get the most out of big data, businesses must acquire the tools to manage volume and variety, while being able to analyse this quickly. This means putting in place measures to capture, analyse and display all of the information required. Where previously this has required a large amount of capital investment, new innovations have meant this technology is becoming more accessible to the mid- market.
For example, the rise of cloud computing has allowed companies to apply new technologies such as data analytics, without having to risk huge initial investments. In addition, the ability to purchase infrastructure via the cloud means that the midmarket has a greater access to computing power than ever before.
In this sense, it is not only becoming easier for these companies to experiment, but actually makes good business sense. Aside from the cloud, servers that are capable of housing data, along with big data platforms such as the open source Apache Hadoop, are now widely available, meaning set up is easy.
The case for the mid-market
The UK mid-market has often been overlooked, as government policy has favoured both large enterprises and small businesses. However, the sector of the market is currently thriving, with an Investec report showing mid-market operating profit was up 18.6 per cent in the year to August 2014.
This success, along with the fact that the UK’s midmarket has just overtaken Germany’s mittelstand means there is a growing enthusiasm for the sector. These companies should not just settle for replicating larger businesses, but should instead lead the way in tech innovation.
From Lenovo’s experience working with mid-market businesses across the UK, we have found the sector to be the most likely to drive innovative technology over the next few years.
By taking advantage of their position, building upon their current levels of infrastructure and selecting the right technologies, mid-market businesses have more than enough resources to succeed with big data.
If your business is looking to get the most out of big data, enter here for the chance to win a free £25,000 consultation