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Big data is a big deal for SMBs

The director of Dalhousie’s Institute for Big Data Analytics says network administrators play a pivotal role in launching successful data projects — especially in smaller organizations.

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When a mid-sized grocer in Atlantic Canada reached out to Deloitte to help them understand the effectiveness of their promotions, they weren’t expecting to unearth a multi-million-dollar revenue opportunity. But that’s just what happened, says Sanjay Khanna, a certified knowledge manager with Deloitte in Halifax.

The grocer was spending a large portion of its marketing budget on promotions, but it wasn’t doing a proper analysis to understand how effective those promotions were, says Khanna.

So the grocer asked Deloitte to create a promotional effectiveness study to capture the impact of its promotions across all SKUs. “We developed an approach to show the cannibalization of the promotions was a serious problem,” explains Khanna, “leading to lower than expected revenue and profit.”

In the end, Deloitte helped the grocer identify a $4 – $6 million revenue opportunity by tweaking the pricing on its flyer promotions.

Turns out, big data is a big deal. Market research firm IDC forecasts the market for big data technology and services to reach US$48.6 billion in 2019 — that’s growing at an annual rate of more than 20 per cent each year.

For companies large and small, there’s gold deep in the data. Strategic analysis of internal data sources can help companies acquire more customers, decrease costs, improve service delivery and increase customer satisfaction.

And you don’t have to be a Google or a Facebook to take advantage of the big data wave sweeping the corporate landscape. Experts say there’s a huge opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses to benefit from this growing trend.

Many smaller companies are starting to sift through mountains of data to unearth hidden patterns and to develop an integrated view of customer activities. Those patterns can help predict buying trends so companies can tweak their marketing or delivery approach accordingly.

A think tank on the East Coast is helping smaller companies launch their data projects. Dalhousie University’s Institute for Big Data Analytics partners with firms to help them better understand their data and how they can best leverage it.

The institute’s director, Stan Matwin, thinks big data is a big deal. In smaller organizations, he says network administrators can play a pivotal role in launching successful data projects because they have an in-depth understanding of that data.

“Network admins understand the volume of data, the constraints on the data, privacy constraints, and so on,” he says.

Network and data administrators can emerge as rock stars in the data world, says Matwin, if they carve out projects that make sense for their business. The experts outline three strategies for success:

Know your business. Talk to salespeople and other business stakeholders to discover their pain points. “Data projects, big and not so big, have to be driven by a business question,” says Matwin.

Start small. Khanna says it’s important to start small and look for relevant data. “Align the data strategy to overall objectives of the organization.”

Think outside the box. Companies can leverage external data sets, particularly open data that comes from government sources, to gain better insight into customer behaviour.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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