How can Small and Medium-sized Enterprises successfully use Big Data technology?

The level of competitiveness created by big players causes, or even forces, small and medium enterprises to undertake new innovative activities that will help them, at least maintain the currently held market position. But the conditions of competition between large and smaller companies do not take place on "equal" principles due to the human, technical and financial resources available to each group. In this article you will find out whether, despite the aforementioned limitations, running a smaller-scale enterprise you will be able to successfully use the opportunities offered by Big Data technology, which is one of the tools changing market conditions, freeing hidden opportunities in companies that were not aware of the value in collected data over all years.

You probably wonder why I devote so much attention to the development of SMEs? The answer is simple: small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the basis of the European economy. According to research carried out by the European Commission, SMEs account for 99% of all enterprises in the European Union. From 2012 to 2017, they generated around 85% of new jobs and provided two-thirds of total employment in the private sector in Europe. The European Commission treats the development of entrepreneurship among the management staff of SMEs as the main factor to ensure economic growth, stimulate innovation, create new jobs and integrate the society of European Union countries.

Start with changing the approach to data usage

One of the main differences between large and medium-sized enterprises, apart from capital for Research and Development, is access to diversified data sources, and more specifically to their effective interception and storage for analysis. If you are an owner / managing person of a small or medium company, you can not approach your data as less "valuable" comparing their value to the data held by leaders in their industry. All data matters, but only if they are used in a deliberate way. I am referring here to openness to undermining the existing states and processes, which were very often developed on the basis of experience or intuition of employees and the owners themselves.

Thus, we come to a place that at the same time becomes the starting point for the potential use of Big Data in small and medium-sized organizations, that is basing the decision-making process fully on the results of analyzes of diversified data. Thanks to this approach, the decisions made, both strategic and operational, are subject to a lower risk of failure. Literally speaking, Big Data technology helps reduce the risk of new activities or investments.But you must bear in mind that even with very advanced analyzes, the risk of failure will always exist, but in this case, we can assume that the greater risk is making decisions based on intuition and not incurring investment costs in using Big Data, than starting the digital transformation of your organization and the introduction of a business model based on the use of data to make decisions or new investments using them. Adoption of such an approach requires a number of changes both on the side of organizational culture and technical infrastructure, so if there are no people with appropriate competences to implement Big Data technology in the company, you should consider employing specialists from external companies or consultants.

The role of information in a small company

Through the use of collected information from, for example, ERP class systems, Google analytics, reports and financial results, SMEs will be able to take strategic steps to focus on their local environment they are dealing with.

Of course, this seems obvious, but with the help of Big Data, current customers or people unconvinced to the existing offer will be able to experience a much better experience in the form of a personalized offer corresponding to the characteristics of behaviors and tastes of the society in a given region. Understanding these preferences in conjunction with direct contact, often seen with small retailers, can allow them to significantly improve customer service compared to larger competitors.

In addition, smaller retailers can easily adjust the arrangement in their stores based on local preferences, when they combine and analyze various factors. By distributing Big-Data-as-a-Service solutions, you can compose a set of tools to optimize customer experience when shopping at the store, even if you do not run a supermarket chain. Using tools that provide you with valuable information such as: the path of moving customers between the shelves in the store, E-mails, comments and reactions of customers in social media, customer information collected in CRM systems, time spent on the website and accompanying behaviors, typed phrases , customer geolocation data and the type of device with which they made purchases or used services, allow you to take effective decisions to distinguish your brand not only on the local market, but even on the national market. Belonging to the SME sector, despite appearances, it creates great opportunities because, as you can easily notice, converting valuable data analysis results from various sources into specific activities can take place at a rapid pace, which in the case of large enterprises is definitely difficult.

Create a work system based on data

As I have already mentioned, valuable information that so far could have been completely overlooked when creating a strategy or developing a plan for the introduction of new products or services can come from many sources in both structured and unstructured form. The size of this data is huge, and the challenge you will have to face is to create a scalable process based on collecting, storing and then analyzing data that from the perspective of your business have real value, so that in the end they are turned into knowledge.

The data analysis results obtained should be used to improve internal decision-making processes, optimize operations, reduce costs or increase user experience.

Creating a work culture based on the use of data for SMEs may seem difficult in the face of a limited budget allocated for investments in modern technologies. However, your company does not have to remain passive on the actions taken by great players who benefit from the use of large data sets. On the contrary. The nature of smaller companies allows you to effectively base the strategy of storing various data in the cloud, which in turn leads to flexibility and speed in their use compared to the competition with a much larger IT budget.

Digital innovators belonging to the SME sector unanimously confirm that all companies - regardless of their size or sector - have to consider a cloud-based strategy. This strategy includes the use of software, a platform or complex infrastructure to make it much cheaper and faster to get access to large data. Thanks to this, running even a small organization you will be able to adjust the business model more efficiently to dynamically changing market conditions, not only trying to catch up with the leaders, but to become a pioneer in the implemented solutions.

What benefits can you get from implementing Big Data?

Predicting demand

One of the most popular applications of Big Data technology is to understand the needs and expectations of customers. It is very important to realize that your organization may not have sufficiently large collections of customer information, but in this case you can fill the "gaps" of information using unusual data sources such as social media, weather information, data from publicly available reports and analyzes developed by government organizations. Correlated data from various sources allow us to obtain even more surprising results, which without the use of appropriate research methods would not be able to be captured by people with typical business skills.

Sometimes, even after analyzing seemingly small sets of data, enterprises are able to receive very valuable results, with a significant saving of time and financial outlays.

 

Increased sales volume

There is a common belief that the implementation of modern technological solutions, such as: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence in an enterprise is associated with huge costs. Fortunately, the barrier to implementing these technologies is much smaller than it may seem, therefore the more the change in the mental attitude becomes a more important factor than having large financial resources.

The allocation of funds for the implementation of innovative solutions in the short term can be seen as a cost, but with the passage of time and the appearance of the first positive effects from using Big Data, this attitude changes into the perception of money spent as an investment. To present the Big Data investment, which will be aimed at increasing sales, let us use the example of eCommerce-based business, where a precise understanding of the analysis could constitute a breakthrough in the way business functions to date.

Based on the analysis of sales data from previous years and their correlation with geolocation and weather information, business owners will be able to see seasonality / trends or anomalies in the purchasing decisions of their clients. With this information, those responsible for orders and deliveries will be able to schedule orders for wholesalers of the expected assortment by customers at the right time and in the right quantity, which will reduce the costs of unsold goods stored in the warehouse. Analysis of the sold goods in real time allows additionally to adjust the price level and the content of the offer in the online store, while observing the activities of the competition.

Being in possession of information about the expected level of sales and the type of goods for which the highest demand will be, you can not only plan the right amount of goods offered in the future, but primarily its price level, ahead of its competitors, so there is a good chance that you will be the first he could set the highest margin at an early stage of the life cycle of a given product.

Significant reduction of costs for your organization

Big Data solutions help in creating efficient production processes, where production is based on real demand and optimal use of raw materials.

Another example, where practically zero cost, SMEs can benefit from Big Data technology, there are free online tools for the presentation of data based on 3D visualization that help achieve impressive presentation of visual data at a low cost compared to larger companies that choose expensive commercial tools. These tools offer a visual presentation of key data to provide deeper insight into different areas and sources of costs, enabling smaller enterprises to reduce or even eliminate them.

Time to make a decision, time is less and less

The speed at which new technologies enter each of the industries is alarming, hence so many market players sometimes without a larger strategy to implement advanced IT solutions decide to implement them, because the managers of these companies are guided by an approach where the greater risk is not making investments than investing in modern systems without a specific plan for their use.

When running a company from the SME sector, the process of communication between members at various levels of management and employees with direct contact with the client is much faster than in large corporations, and therefore the experience and insights available to employees at the lowest levels may prove to be the key factors leading to decision-making implementation of a work methodology based on the use of Big Data analysis. The time at which your company implements Big Data solutions may prove to be a decisive factor in helping it maintain its current competitive position or even gain an advantage in the local market.

If you have not yet considered the benefits and the challenges brought by the implementation of Big Data technology, we would be happy to talk to you about creating the right strategy for using the data your company has. As you can see, sometimes the data is much larger than the process of their effective use.

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