The importance of data in small businesses

Data is transcending through organisations at a pace never seen before, and it’s becoming absolutely crucial for small businesses to get in on the act. Whether that be allowing customers or clients access their account data for instance to streamline internal business processes; or whether it’s using the data to gain some kind of competitive or differential advantage in their market or sector.

So, the question you’re asking is, you’ve mentioned data loads already, but what actually is data? Well, data simply is a bunch of raw content (symbols, strings, integers) that doesn’t mean a lot to the human eye at first glance.

Why would a business waste its time worrying about data? Well, data can be transformed into information — by giving the data some kind of relational connection, and once patterns within this information are recognised — it’s knowledge! Meaning you know what needs improved, you know what could be done better within your organisation!

In terms of business efficiency however by managing data, information and knowledge, it then cuts out that pesky duplicate data you hold which clogs up so many shared drives all over the globe! And alas, by managing it properly, it’s there for when you need it!

It’s pretty prudent no matter how big or small you are as an organisation to audit your information, and ensure data integrity, as it nowadays in this IT centric society it literally comes from everywhere — whether it’s a Spreadsheet, or Access DB to manage some aspect of business, or an enterprise application powered by a SQL database or NoSQL database. These data sources can be used to integrate to other services in real time — such as a website, report dashboard or a CRM for example — so you have to make sure the data is correct — or you’re in for an incredibly difficult time! There’s also the possibility you will be left behind by competitors, as they might be doing it right!

As internally data is coming from everywhere, how can you ensure accuracy? As this data will or could be used to eventually make some kind of strategic decision — as an organisation you must ensure the data is of good quality or correct, rather than a whole bunch of inaccurate data which could cause your organisation huge problems in quarters, and maybe years to come.

Small business is integral to the economy of all countries, especially the UK. It would be a great shame to see some not realise their potential as they don’t realise data could potentially unlock doors they didn’t even know could be opened..

Organisations need to use technology to get the most out of external data, and lucky for them this is possibly the most exciting time (for most geeks like me anyway) as there is a huge amount of research going into real-time analytics of big data, and visualising this data. The NoSQL movement has provided unprecedented scalability and flexibility in taking this forward with the rise of Graph DB’s such as Neo4j, Document Stores like MongoDB, XML databases, analytical databases such as Hadoop. We’re no longer stuck in the relational mind-set, no more tables and relationships (although SQL databases obviously still have their uses), by analysing big data and visualising it you can re-develop products and services based upon perception or opinion — this is huge for businesses — as if a product is failing due to a small detail, this can be fixed pretty easily. Especially in smaller business’ where you may be looking to launch a similar product or service to a bigger business but are looking to differentiate it slightly, this insight is huge — and could pave the way to a competitive advantage!

Anyway enough from me, first blog over. Connor, out!

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