You don’t need to be a data scientist or have a team of engineers to get on board the big data train. It’s also not so much about the amount of data you have, but rather how you analyse the data you have at your fingertips.
Every organisation, large or small, in whatever sector, has the opportunity to leverage their data to create efficiencies, to find out more about their customers, to gain better insights into their finances and their sales records. All this information can be used to create a competitive advantage, and to enable you to compete with bigger companies.
Where do I start?
To begin you simply need to assess what data you have; you could start out with simple sales data. Then start breaking it down by date and further by product category. What do you know about your customer? If you don’t know customer metrics you can derive them from sales data and group your customers, then you target them with individualised offers that they will be interested in. This is what Tesco did in the 90s when they were mid-sized with their Clubcard growing the business to the extent that they are now the biggest supermarket chain in the country.
You should also consider any potential data that you could be missing out on. You may be an online business storing simple page views but what about recording every click, tracking how your customer uses your website, what catches their eye and what influences their spending. Many SMEs simply throw away this sort of information but it can be invaluable when deciding upon future strategy.
I have data now but where do I put it?
It is surprising how many business run things from Excel spreadsheets or perhaps an old Access database but there are far better solutions out there. Not just in terms of speed but also ease of backing up, security and portability of your data.
The best solution, which will scale as your business does, is to import your data into an in-memory analytics database and install a business intelligence system to connect to it.
Isn’t it really expensive?
Hardware costs are falling, you can buy a small powerful server for less than ever before. You can try the software for free – albeit with limited capacity but enough to get you going. When you are ready to scale up or need more help and advice then you may wish to start paying.
At the rate organisations are creating data it is unsurprising that much of it goes unused and insights go undiscovered. If businesses could move 100, or even 1,000 times faster, the possibilities they could derive from their data are endless. The need for speed in analytics is obvious.
In the age of superfast broadband and immediate Internet access on a plethora of devices, customers just aren’t willing to wait around for a response to a product query, or a particular service demand. They will simply go somewhere else. Businesses therefore can’t afford not to take on board new, in memory technologies that give them the superfast, real-time business intelligence to stay ahead of the game.
Mathias Golombek is the chief technology officer at EXASOL, provider of the world’s fastest database.
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