Big data means big business for small companies

Project management team updating Gantt chart schedule or planning on computer, two business people in office

Small and medium sized businesses are increasingly recognising the opportunities presented by big data; offering unprecedented insight, improved decision-making and untapped sources of profit.

While the term “big data” has only officially been around since 2005, the understanding that the storage and analysis of large and complex data sets can be scrutinised and used in predictive analysis, has long been acknowledged. Described as the “second gold rush”, it is expected to have a profound impact on commerce in the 21st Century. This description seems appropriate since quarrying the information contained in datasets is called ‘data mining’.

It all comes down to ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)

Implementing a big data strategy may seem daunting to a small business owner, but in reality, most SMEs already gather significant amounts of data from numerous platforms. A big data strategy is simply a means of leveraging this information and converting it into real business value. To do this effectively, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution is needed to gather, store and collate business data in a central location.

An ERP enables a business to integrate its operations into one simple digital business platform. This allows for the automation of key business functions such as financials, purchasing, inventory, sales, customer relationships, project management,operations and human resources. The business data that is generated from these functions is then stored in one database, making information available company-wide for management to use in strategic decision-making.

5 Top benefits of implementing an ERP solution in a small company:

  1. Better financial control by integrating financial operations with other business processes.
  2. Improved customer satisfaction leading to increased sales and profitability.
  3. Increased margins because of optimised purchasing and operational efficiencies.
  4. Greater stock control and real-time inventory management results in full supply chain visibility.
  5. Lightning fast Business Intelligence insights in report-form gathered from company-wide data.

 The “big” opportunity

Making use of real-time analytics means a business owner can gain valuable insight into the company’s finances, production, stock, customer base and staff metrics at any time. Through predictive analytics, data compiled from several sources can provide insights into real-time sales trends and consumer habits to compile more accurate forecasts.

Some of the biggest reported challenges faced by companies when implementing big data solutions are not related to technology at all. The obstacles most often identified as preventing successful implementation of a big data management system relate to cultural challenges such as organisational alignment and a resistance to new ways of working. Fortunately, these can easily be overcome by a well-planned and executed change management process which addresses both employee concerns and training needs.

As business continues to be driven by technology, fuelled by innovation and challenged by competition, companies that don’t capitalise on the possibilities presented by big data may represent a “big” missed opportunity.

In this age of digital transformation, effective big data management is crucial as it will enable small businesses to gain scale, be more competitive and leverage new opportunities that until now may have been largely untapped.

Craig Johnston is the Marketing Manager at Bluekey Seidor, one of the fastest growing SAP Business One Partners in Africa. Visit