The time has come for SMBs to take the plunge into the new world of big data, advanced analytics, and machine learning.
THE JOURNEY TO MODERN DATA TECHNOLOGIES FOR SMALL AND MID-SIZED BUSINESS (SMBS)
The proliferation of Big Data, Advanced Analytics, Machine Learning, and other such modern technologies is generating buzz. Every day, we hear how these technologies are helping companies better understand customer behavior and purchase habits, reducing costs, helping to generate better health outcomes, and increasing profits. So, what has driven this buzz? At a high level, it is driven by the convergence of the factors below:
Connected society – Today's citizens are always connected, generating/exchanging data
Internet of Things (IoT) – Sensors and bandwidth improvements have produced machines capable of communicating with one another and sending data through the internet
Growth of social media – Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Blogs, etc. not only produce vast amounts of data, but also present new opportunities to analyze and understand consumer sentiment
Rise in consumer expectations – Consumers now demand personalized service, advertising, and attention customized to their preferences to influence action
Commoditization of technology, emergence of new tools – Cloud computing and open source technologies allow for smoother data ingestion, storage, reporting, and advanced analytics
Large companies with ample resources have been able to take advantage and derive real value from this growing flood of data. Conversely, Small and Mid-Sized Businesses (SMBs) have been slow to adopt these new technologies. When speaking with companies seeking to harness these technologies for their enterprises, the misconception is that in order to gain real value, SMBs need to spend vast amounts of money and time. This is not true. SMBs are able to incorporate advanced analytics techniques that can extract insights from massive, dynamic and diverse data.
With that said, SMBs often face the following challenges as they begin their journey to modernize their data architectures:
1. Not having a well-defined strategy and roadmap, with clear measures of success
2. Managing business expectations that are fueled by daily success stories
3. Not defining how new technologies can fit into the existing architecture
4. Lack of technical skills, and knowing how to strategically develop these skills
5. Defining an appropriate process – one that allows innovation yet maintains quality
6. Making sure that the data used to make business decisions is governed appropriately
7. Selecting the right set of tools from a wide range of choices
8. Selecting the right partners to help along the way
Despite the seemingly difficult obstacles, the reality is that SMBs can, due to recent technology advances, embark on this journey in a cost effective way and see real value delivered quickly. Some of these advances include:
Emergence of "open source plus" technologies as a viable commercial option
Cloud-based services that provide the ability to ramp up slowly or quickly, and to start up and shut down platforms as needed – all at an attractive price point
Tools that enable both novice and sophisticated users to perform advanced analytics
One of the keys to success is to use a "crawl-walk-run" approach, which includes a process to quickly learn what works, and "fail fast, fail often." Most importantly, this can be done without a large capital investment. This approach also lends itself well to Agile development practices, which have been proven to reduce overall cost and increase product quality.
Future SMB winners will be defined by those who figure out how to handle this deluge of data. This will be an absolute requirement for SMBs to remain competitive, and in some cases, their sheer survival will depend on this ability. The time has come for SMBs to take the plunge into the new world of big data, advanced analytics, and machine learning. A couple of related articles by my colleagues detail specific areas where SMBs can begin their journey into this new world – Digital Analytics for SMBs and Machine Learning for SMBs.
WorldLink is a Technology Services Firm with offerings in Emerging Technology Consultancy, Talent Management and Managed Services. The Emerging Technology department helps clients evolve into a Data-Driven enterprise and assists companies through their Cloud adoption journey. The Technical Staffing arm of WorldLink has provided effective talent strategies for forward-looking technology projects since 1998. WorldLink's Managed Services offerings range from large-scale turnkey projects to supporting implemented solutions. The company is based in Frisco, Texas and has employees in over 30 US states and Korea. Learn more at - www.worldlink-us.com