Here's how big data works for small business

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This is an excerpt from ‘Australia’s Business Challenges 2017’ — a comprehensive must-read e-book for small business owners brought to you by Bank of Queensland. Scroll down to download a copy.

The rapid advances in information technology and the devices we use to connect to the web are part of an ongoing data evolution predicted to unlock trillions of dollars globally over the next decade.

The power of “big data” to drive economic activity has been likened to that of oil.

Just like the more familiar black gold, this data needs to be first collected and then refined for businesses to harness its full potential.

The sort of analytics business needs to understand its customers, optimise processes to develop new products and get them to market has been traditionally available in the form of business intelligence open to the big end of town.

But with the flood of information now easily available as a by-product of so much of our digital interaction, if you are running a small business you can’t afford not to be thinking about data too.

The good news is much of it can be obtained for free or low cost using assets you may already have or can easily create in minutes from your phone – like a simple website or business page on popular social media sites.

A recent report from Deloitte Access Economics found businesses with higher levels of digital engagement had benefited on a range of metrics, with a significant “digital dividend” gained from embracing digital tools to help grow revenue, create jobs and diversify the customer base.

“Applying technologies to business processes and functions can help SMBs to focus on their strengths, as well as making it easier to stay up-to-date as the digital landscape continues to evolve in the future,” the Connected Small Businesses study says.

But the report also found that 90 per cent of SMBs were not taking full advantage of the sorts of digital tools available today, with “inadequate skills” proving a barrier for many. Certainly, the constantly shifting nature of digital can make it difficult to navigate.

But it is also why it cannot be ignored if you want to stay ahead of the competition and remain relevant to the changing needs of your existing and potential customers.

It is the gathering and analysis of information that defines big data, with headline applications in everything from augmenting human intelligence in medicine to facial recognition software for security at the airport gateway.

For traditional big business, the sorts of data sets may be structured information like that contained in a bank customer’s transaction record.

But increasingly, because of how we are using the internet, the best data to be mined for insights is unstructured – for instance coming from our phones, SMS and social media.

The good news for small business is with the right tools and a few simple steps this is just the sort of data you can use to build your business and optimise your workflow and delivery processes.

With so many tools out there, and more coming all the time, the key is to start using the right ones.

If you’re not a digital native, try talking to one to get you started. But for everyone out there, the undeniable power of the internet giants we use every day is there to be harnessed with a suite of tools to suit every business and function.

This is an excerpt from ‘Australia’s Business Challenges 2017’ — a comprehensive must-read e-book for small business owners brought to you by Bank of Queensland. To download a copy, fill in your details in the form below.

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