How Small Businesses Can Compete By Leveraging Data Insights

Business.com | Matthew Gierc  | Nov 21, 2019

business man and women - How Small Businesses Can Compete By Leveraging Data InsightsMany organizations still struggle to extract insight from their data. As a smaller business, you have a big advantage, but you must be careful to know exactly what type of insight you need.

  • Many companies still struggle to extract insight from their data.
  • Generally, as a smaller business you have the ability to be more nimble.
  • You need to treat data as a tool for growth, not a cost center.
  • Moreover, you need to focus on what type of insight will help your business to grow.

Over the past five years, big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have become hot topics in the business world. Unlike the management fad du-jour, the capabilities of AI have transformed some of the most difficult and outdated business processes into highly efficient and profitable systems. But the gains from AI have also prompted widespread questions about whether fast-developing machine learning technologies can be applied to make small businesses even more efficient in other areas such as increasing sales.

Solving the problem of gleaning insight from data

Most organizations rely on AI to generate customized reports, data and customer insights. But their ability to measure, manage and control these efforts is limited. This is precisely why AI is still most often associated with cognitive applications and big data. Only a small proportion of new AI initiatives are aimed at companies’ operational processes, such as processes that increase sales. This leaves plenty of opportunity for real-time data optimization, more effective sales and reduced costs.

Until now, business intelligence has largely been the realm of the “smart humans” that think their way around spreadsheets and databases. But AI offers a powerful and easy-to-use way of capturing and showcasing this data.

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The challenge is that the amount of data available is vast. And despite the movement toward open source database technology, when it comes to data analysis it’s the proprietary (and mostly unavailable) company-created data from big businesses that customers flock to. This is particularly true for customers with big data programs. And much of the data in the systems big data companies have developed  will become very expensive to maintain as those companies mature. A small company, though, can save itself some money by embracing big data and doing its own analysis.

This is particularly true of small companies that are struggling to take advantage of the tools already available. But it’s also true of the biggest companies that are joining big data adoption because they realize that they are missing a great deal of competitive advantage. Small companies aren’t the only players who might benefit. Big companies need to start thinking about how big data can add value to their own businesses. But they need to wrap their heads around what this data will mean for their company.

Small businesses gain an advantage in being nimble

Companies need ways to mine and interpret all the data they collect, while simultaneously improving products and services, acquiring leads and converting prospects into paying customers.

However, for many there is the internal obsession with controlling everything and ignoring what is right in front of them. This lack of a clear business strategy leads to endless consultations, disagreements and wasted resources. Many organizations that are already equipped with AI tools often fail to make the most of them.

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Smaller companies face significant challenges when developing AI technology, due to the relative challenge of digitizing disparate processes. Many small businesses struggle to overcome the time and cost of human interaction to simplify, and potentially automate, their operations. However, when used in conjunction with data analysis and data visualization, these tools can assist with understanding a company’s processes and trending to establish a greater understanding of the business.

Companies need to understand these challenges, establishing innovative, open and effective techniques while building internal community. This approach doesn’t take long. Once you’ve set goals and set some expectations, you’re well on your way to taking advantage of data in your organization.

Treat your data as a driver of growth, not a cost

There is plenty of evidence that companies that invest in big data reap a lot of benefits. After all, the opportunities presented by analysis of customer data can be profit-boosting or even life-saving.

You can understand why companies might want to think of big data and technology as a service. This is typically true even for startups that might not yet have a product or know exactly what  they have to offer. Start-ups simply have less capital to invest in the technology and services required to deliver on their innovation.

For those companies, investing in technology is also an act of belief in their ability to deliver on that promise. Technology should eliminate a lot of the tedious and costly manual conversion and supply chain optimization work so businesses can focus on creating awesome experiences for their customers.

Any kind of big data effort needs to look at the data it has already collected to understand what trends and causes it has already identified, spot new possibilities, determine correlations and understand possible outcomes. This approach allows marketers to better understand consumer behavior, preferences and emotions, but anyone in business should think about the opportunity it affords.

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That means having a hard conversation about how to maximize the potential for the information you have created. One of the first questions you should ask yourself is whether big data is really a service or technology. This is a pretty good indicator of whether the company itself will benefit from it.

In a competitive industry with legacy companies encumbered by technology, AI powered platforms promise to save on data protection and load dramatically. Achieving digital transformation takes money, time and a keen eye. AI enhanced software products gives us advanced capabilities such as machine learning, not only to create smarter offerings but also to expand partnerships and enhance our overall service offering to our clients.

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