Telling the truth about SME life today

Why SMEs need analytics: The rise of the quantified enterprise

The quote comes from Nate Silver, author of ‘The Signal’ and ‘The Noise’. For those of you that havent heard of Nate Silver, he was the genius that in the 2012 United States presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. He knows a lot about predictive analytics – a concept that continues to strike fear and anxiety into the hearts of many SMEs.

In short, if something can be digitised, it can be quantified. If it can be quantified, it can be measured. What can be measured can be educational and predictive. And if knowledge, as another saying goes, is power, then the ability to predict the future based on past information data is a superpower.

Every field is affected by analytics but few know how to implement it. The significant gap that separates science and business is still only marginally closing. But what I find astonishing is that we are not doing anything about it. Why  

For the big and the small

SMEs are often under the assumption that SaaS (Software as a Service) and analytics are too expensive and unnecessary. Many are also limited by their belief that they are constrained by inadequacies in their corporate systems. That Big Data is just a tool for a select few with money burning a hole in their pockets.

This is a critical misconception.

SMEs need to realise that their smaller data sets may be limited to just a few factors, but when we can use Big Data analysis, bigger questions can be asked.

You only need to look at the ways in which Amazon and Tesco are using analytics techniques to adapt to real-time scenarios, to understand how succinctly big data can gather customer insights. And these are companies that are hindered by their extensive anonymous customer base. SMEs youve got it easy. It is time for you to start realising the dramatic gains in efficiency, efficacy and performance of mission-critical business processes.

Smaller businesses are easily able to take advantage of big data, and their continued need for public cloud services to store and analyse this data is pretty much solid proof of that.

But this “big data gold rush” puts added pressure on IT and data management strategists to quickly deliver systems that can handle the growing amounts, and increasing variety, of incoming data.

The big data menu is extensive, which can be extremely overwhelming. So when deciding what tools to apply to your business it is important to ensure the provider you choose is capable and dedicated to doing this. Big Data can be a double-edged sword because unless the data is properly digested, correlated, matched, and transformed across systems, it can actually have a very damaging effect on business operations.  

It is this often-limited ability of SME to define the critical business questions poses the biggest threat to implementation. This is why outsourcing can be the most effective way to ensure that the needs of the business are met. Outsourcing can also prevents wasting resources, time and energy.

Often for SMEs it is best to go with David over the Goliaths when it comes to analytics providers. Smaller providers are inherently more agile, specialist and able to dedicate more time to unearthing the real insights that can be derived from your data.

There simply cannot be a one size fits all principle applied to approaching data, so taking time to consider what it is you actually want to find out it crucial to successful analytics implementation.

I think the most fundamental thing for SMEs to understand is the ways in which analytics not only benefit your relationship to your customers, but also to your environment. The rise of the quantified enterprise comes hand in hard with the increasing strive for personal perfection and lightning gratification among SMEs. The quantified enterprise represents the relationship you have to the data you create within the enterprise.

Once businesses realise the connection between data, enterprise and the self, you will not only benefit collectively as a company but individually through being able to establish and measure your personal success.

That data comes from many places, such as the electronic relationship you have with other people. It also comes from the data the enterprise creates, such as your relationship to a specific project or communication.

Enterprise activity is like the weather. It happens all the time, but new tools are frequently introduced to measure it. Its one thing to measure the weather; it’s another thing to see snow in the summer. You need to measure whats meaningful. Meaningful to you.

Where are we headed over the next few years with this data, and how will it impact our lives

According to IDC theres more information available now than ever before. In 2011, we collectively created enough information to fill 57.5bn 32 GB iPads. If you stack these iPads up, you could build a Great Wall of China twice as tall as the original.  

Our relationship with the enterprise and the data that we create will be transformational. This wealth of information will help employees be more productive and empowered by giving them greater control over the services they need, anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

Calling all you small but mighty enterprises! Join the Quantified Enterprise. It is definitely not something to be sneezed at.

Rob Symes is CEO of The Outside View.

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