Whether it’s emails, texts, surveys or invoice details – it’s clear that the amount of data generated by today’s businesses is on the rise. Even for the largest enterprises, managing this explosive growth of data can be complex and cumbersome. But for small-to-midsize enterprises (SMEs) lacking the appropriate IT resources, this flood of data can be overwhelming. However, there is a growing awareness that within this data lays a goldmine of information that can help improve the bottom line, better service current customers and help to identify future customers. With research predicting that data driven decision-making achieves up to 6% of productivity gains, it is critical for today’s SMEs to develop a data strategy to manage growth, identify new opportunities and increase business efficiency.
Big Data for SMEs Defined
What exactly is “big data” to an SME? Defined by Steve Lucas, executive vice president, Business Analytics, Database & Technology at SAP, as, “the unprecedented growth of data from the convergence of a variety of sources,” big data takes shape in both structured and unstructured formats. Structured data consists of transactional information generally found in ERP and CRM systems, and is typically both consumable and searchable.
Spreadsheets are an example of structured data – one that SMEs could drown under without a plan in place to manage this information. Unstructured data, on the other hand, can be a bit more challenging to search and retrieve, with examples including machine-generated data such as images, sound and digital video. This type of data can remain hidden from sight permanently due to its overwhelming abundance. According to an IDC study, this machine-generated data is expected to increase 15 times by 2020.
The truth is that large enterprises aren’t creating all of this data alone – SMEs are part of the big data craze whether they realize it or not. According to the Small Business Administration 99.7% of U.S. employer firms are small businesses. With such an abundance of SMEs, it is safe to say that these organizations proliferate data as much as large enterprises. As many SMEs operate in supply chains or work with suppliers and distributors, these businesses are often indirectly in touch with massive amounts of data from large organizations. With the right big data strategy in place, SMEs are able to analyze both structured and unstructured data and use it to achieve benefits that are critical to business development.
Managing Business Growth
For businesses with minimal IT resources and staff in place, the cost of storing big data within traditional databases can cripple their infrastructure and bottom line. As SMEs look to grow their businesses, it is critical to incorporate a cost-effective strategy that aligns with both existing data challenges and future plans for growth. Laying a strong base for big data will help SMEs prepare for this growth by providing immediate insight on key business drivers and objectives. By allowing businesses to stay ahead of the curve across all projects, employees are better able to anticipate what might happen next.
New Data, New Opportunities
SMEs are bombarded on a daily basis with questions from customers, suppliers, and internal members that require quick investigation. Organizations that are able to track down the right information with speed and accuracy are equipped to respond with the right answers at the right time. Missing opportunities can be costly to an SME, which means that speed is a critical aspect of managing big data. By managing existing data challenges with ease, employees are able to focus on improving tomorrow’s business decisions, rather than worrying about those of yesterday. With a plan to manage big data, the future becomes clearer and removes much of the guesswork. Through embedded intelligence from big data, SMEs can discover new sources of revenue to further drive business growth.
Using Real-Time Data for Business Efficiency
With the right analytics strategy in place, SMEs can deliver personalized offers for new customer experiences based on real-time data. This helps SMEs capitalize on trends and provide their customers what they need quickly. For BigPoint, Europe’s leading gaming company who manages Battlestar Galactica online, this real-time data management is critical to the success of their product. Processing over 5,000 pieces of data per second, the company is able to analyze this data in real-time and provide tailored offerings for each player (upgrading a battleship, for example), as the game unfolds in front of them. This real-time customization creates a truly unique game environment for each individual player.
For the McLaren Group, a company whose core activities include Formula One auto racing, leveraging big data appropriately is critical to business efficiency. In 2006, McLaren Electronics was chosen by the FIA to supply Standard ECUs (electronic control units) to all teams in Formula One. The system debuted on all cars at the start of the 2008 season, and has been reliably controlling the complete powertrain ever since. In addition to supplying Formula One teams, McLaren also supplies ECU’s to all teams in the IndyCar and NASCAR series. With the right technology in place to process big data, McLaren’s technology enables all teams in these series to turbo-charge both the speed and depth of their telemetry technology. With the technology for real-time analysis in place, teams can process both historical data in addition to creating predictive models, helping to make strategic, immediate decisions during a Grand Prix.
Challenges associated with big data can be turned into opportunities for SMEs with the right data strategy, and part of that strategy involves awareness. SMEs need to know how data affects their business on a day-to-day basis before jumping into a big data solution. Fortunately, many SMEs are recognizing that big data is an area they must watch closely. According to a recent online poll conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of SAP, 76% of SMEs view big data as an opportunity for growth. With opportunities to achieve business growth, capitalize on new opportunities and increase business efficiency, the time is now for SMEs to begin leveraging big data for improved business decision making.
About the author
Jayme Smithers is Global Vice President, Platform Solutions, Indirect Channels, SAP, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Smithers has been with SAP since 2001, during which he has built an extremely strong reputation as a sales leader who delivers results and a subject matter expert in analytics, including SAP BusinessObjects solutions, and other new innovations (SAP HANA), together with a firm understanding of the economics required to maximize various routes to market. Jayme currently works out of the SAP Lab in Vancouver, B.C., the birthplace of SAP Crystal Reports, and is a member of the executive leadership team for the site. The Vancouver site is a strategic asset to SAP, for it is home to 1,100 employees working on the complete product lifecycle (i.e., development, sales and support).