Big Data is typically characterised by the four V’s: organisations are increasingly faced with enormous Volumes of Varied data from various sensors, surveys or measurements, not always uniformly trustworthy (Veracity), that pass us by at a significant Velocity. The expectation – or hope – is that in bundling diverse information better decisions, more balanced choices and more efficient process control are possible.
The potential power of Big Data is beyond doubt. Companies like Amazon or Google thrive on Big Data – and they brought billion-dollar industries to their knees in no time. These moguls are the tip of the iceberg of digital native companies that not only stand to conquer the world but at the same time send it in a new direction.
But while most big enterprises have been trying to get a grip on their Big Data for a number of years, smaller companies face an uphill struggle towards the successful application of Business Intelligence and Analytics, let alone an integrated digital strategy. Two obstacles present themselves in many cases.
First, of course, is a lack of awareness, experience and insight in BI and BA tools. To be able to lever, say, your customer data in improving customer acquisition and retention, the appropriate data has to be captured, stored, queried, analysed, visualised — and interpreted. Without the right expertise the digital revolution risks to peter out, ending up in a dashboards of KPIs and early warning signals without any added value: a measuring tool that is (pre)determined to prove a certain target has been met is all too easily assembled.
Of the four V’s, Velocity and Volume are less of a concern with SMEs. Usually the culprits are Variety – can you handle differently (un)structured data – and Veracity – how good is your data? Rather than storage capacity or computer processing power, SMEs require intelligent analysts – literally: those that can read between the lines. Where do you find those? Is there an opportunity to accumulate such expertise through resource sharing, maybe in collaboration with knowledge centres or academia? Is there a common test environment where SMEs can learn by doing and exchange experiences?
What not to do, is try and transition from the “analog” hierarchical organisation and business model towards a new networked and data driven model by putting digital tools and concepts to “good” use in the “established” way at all costs. Rather, existing companies should build on their strengths – brand power, customer loyalty, IP library… – to facilitate the mutation into a genuinely digital or data native organisation.