Despite its rather grandiose name, big data is not something that businesses should be wary of. On the contrary, if they get to master it, the information that comes from big data could revolutionize the way they do business. True, it does require a substantial amount of time, energy, and money, but like all technology tools, it will always be worth it in the end.
But, what is big data?
Big data is actually a collection of smaller data sets that are brought together to create a more detailed and exhaustive picture of information. Data from digital and analog sources – both from within a business and outside it – are interlinked to form one “big” data set that can then be used to extract more accurate and comprehensive information.
Any source of information that can be linked with another data set can be integrated into big data. Examples of sources include:
- Analog data – A machine that counts the number of vehicles that have passed through a toll booth can be a good example here. The numbers can then be used for further analysis with respect to other related information like that which comes from pollution sensors.
- Offline mini-data sources – Many businesses would be surprised at the amount of data that is stored in their employees’ spreadsheet applications. This data can be used as a big data source. Similar sources include CSV, text, and HTML files.
- Online local databases – The databases that a business uses to store its clients’ information and keep track of products and sales are also a good source of supporting data sets.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) – With more and more smart gadgets and appliances connecting to office networks, it would be a mistake to not extract and make use of the data they can provide. Factory gauges and controls, the temperature readings from an industrial freezer, and the data from a smart surge protector can all be used as sources for big data. The difference between these gadgets and the analog data is that the IoT is a collection of smart devices that can push their data on their own, while the analog data sources need human intervention.
- Data from other online sources – Any data that can be harvested online can also be used as a source for big data. A business might want to analyze how successful its recent social media campaign is. The data that is extracted from social media platforms can show how far their campaign has reached, what percentage of people were engaged with their content, and what the target demographic looks like. This information can then be integrated with other data to create even more detailed information about how to go about marketing and sales in a particular region.
As can be seen from the points mentioned above, all the consolidated data that comes from various sources will need a more advanced analytic tool that can work with big data.
How can businesses use big data?
Once businesses – both big and small – can reign in all their data sources to create their big data, they will be able to have a clearer picture of their present situation and even have a glimpse into the future. These advantages lead to:
A business that doesn’t know who their customer base is will find it really difficult to make sales. Yet, with information that comes from website analysis tools like Google’s Analytics, that same business can have in-depth information about its clients and visitors.
Everything from their location, their ages, the web pages they prefer, the products they linger on the most, as well as those they avoid, can all be used as feedback. Armed with that information, the business can then design a product and marketing campaign that targets that ideal demographic.
The results from the analysis of big data will give management an up-to-date picture of where their business stands. If the business happens to be a source of information for its clients (or even other businesses) it can sell (at premium rates) the processed information. At the very least, it can become a source of reliable information that external organizations can use as a benchmark. This would boost any business’ reputation.
Quick on-the-spot decisions
Anyone that is armed with accurate real-time information will be able to make quick decisions that could impact their future. A business that beats the competition to the gun, to create a new product or plan a new marketing strategy, will be able to corner the market. Every second counts in today’s age of information, as decisions are made in such a short amount of time.
Global collaboration at its best
Businesses that have employees working in various locations across the globe will be able to bring everyone together and still be sure they are all on the same page. Different departments will be able to collaborate on projects using the most accurate information available. This will lead to better outputs and the creation of products and services that their clients will be happy to pay for.
Start on your big data collection now
Big data is a tool that can take any business into the future at breakneck speed. A business that isn’t already using it, or planning on doing so, will soon find out the hard way that this data goldmine cannot be ignored.