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This article was published on October 9, 2012

What big data means for small business

What big data means for small business
Allen Gannett
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Allen Gannett

Allen Gannett is an entrepreneur and investor. Currently, he is the founder and Chief Maven of TrackMaven, the competitive intelligence plat Allen Gannett is an entrepreneur and investor. Currently, he is the founder and Chief Maven of TrackMaven, the competitive intelligence platform for enterprise marketers. He is a partner at Acceleprise, the enterprise technology accelerator. Previously, he co-founded CampusSplash. He is a pumpkin pie addict, a former castmember on MTV's Movers and Changers, and a failed Wheel of Fortune contestant. You can follow him on Twitter: @Allen.

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Big data has become the buzzy phrase for large enterprises. Almost 50% of CIOs surveyed said that they thought big data and business intelligence would be a top disruptive trend in 2013.. However, much of the innovation and use of big data has traditionally neglected small businesses. Standard business intelligence (BI) tooling for accessing big data has been expensive, reliant on IT integration, and often required people trained in data analytics. However, over the last two years we’ve seen the rise of new cloud-based BI tools that focus on ease-of-use and lower cost. In addition, these tools provide built-in analysis that makes it easier for small businesses to utilize BI software and understand what big data means to them.

Out of Reach

Small businesses have long been locked out of leveraging big data because of clunky, expensive, hard-to-use BI software. Traditional enterprise BI software can start in the five figures and often costs significantly more. In addition to the software used to process this data, most small businesses struggle to provide the required input data. How could they process big data that they didn’t have? This traditional software also required data analysts and others trained to understand its arcane outputs. For a small business, using software that was expensive, slow, and required additional staff was untenable.

New BI

The rise of the cloud has had dramatic effects on big data and business intelligence (BI) by making software lighter weight and reducing costs of delivery. By providing web-based software, BI vendors are able to scale more easily and thus can drive down their costs and relay those savings to their customers. New cloud-based BI tools such as Yurbi start at only $300/year, which is within the budgets of many small businesses.

In addition, many of these new tools are focused on providing insight from data. Instead of merely giving customers the power to analyze and crunch data, new cloud-based BI tools are allowing small business to gain insights from the data and “abstract the analyst.” For example, a Durham-based startup called Windsor Circle allows ecommerce companies of any size to understand their customers and target specific content to them. Instead of an analysts figuring out which customer segments are most likely to repurchase, Windsor Circle automatically creates marketing segments that are likely to repurchase with the right messaging.

Abstraction of the Analyst

Furthermore, many of these new big data tools help small businesses gather the data they need for analysis, or come with data pre-packaged. For example, the Small Business Administration has a tool called SizeUp that has data about all the small businesses across the United States and can help you decide where to locate your new business. For instance, you can search for where dry cleaners are currently located and see where there may be an opportunity to locate a new one. By building in the data, the SBA helps clear one of the most significant hurdles to utilizing big data.

Another example is Square’s small business register, which is an alternative point-of-sale system for small businesses that provides free business analytics. It can show you granular data, such as your average payment amount by time period. By combining analytics with data gathering, Square makes it simple for small businesses to understand their customers and payment data, something previously complicated to track and crunch.

Small businesses, like large enterprises, have a lot to gain by understanding the big data surrounding their businesses. With the rise of new cloud-based business intelligence tools, small businesses are now empowered to improve their operations and efficiency by analyzing the data surrounding their business.

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