For small businesses, there’s precious little room for expensive investments in IT, and data is no different. Every “data” conversation that an entrepreneur or small businesses participates in has to quickly focus on ROIs, expenses, payback periods, etc. to sustain interest and translate into action. Also, it’s commonplace for SMBs to consider data strategies as a fancy term for the act of planning about data storage! Of course, data storage is an important component of data strategies. However, data strategies extend way beyond storage. Before anything, let’s talk about some of the key aspects of data strategies, particularly for small businesses:
- Establish tiers of data management processes.
- Privacy and security upkeep for business-critical data.
- Outline the organization’s plan to mine data for insights.
- Design metrics for evaluation of storage and infrastructure evolution when the business grows.
- Avoid expenses in unnecessary and expensive data management, governance, and storage technologies.
- Determine the perfect investments approach to align data management practices with business goals.
Derive value from online, accessible, and multiple data sources
When employees have access to the info they need, irrespective of their location, productivities jump. Self-service reporting is the way forward, even for entry-level businesses. You need to account for this need in your data strategy so that the IT department can create processes that help with meta-tagging for all data elements, making the data easily consumable for reporting.
Cloud-powered business intelligence technologies are incorporating self-service reporting capabilities, allowing end users to easily create super valuable reports by defining simple data rules. Such a BI tool makes the right data available, at the right time, and in the right format, and to the right person!
When teams have access to value-adding real-time reports on the move, it can become a driver of competitive advantage for your business. And that’s why data strategies for small businesses need to focus on aggregating data from multiple sources (such as Google Analytics, MS Excel, CRM tool, Drive, and Dropbox), to enable microlevel business intelligence.
Make the most of predictive analytics
Small businesses can’t afford customer attrition. Customer lifetime value becomes a crucial parameter for small businesses because their customer acquisition costs are high. This is just one of the hundreds of problems that predictive analytics can solve. Customer intelligence, for instance, is a small component of predictive analytics that focuses on determining data-driven insights from past customer behavior to predict future behavior, so that businesses can align their marketing mix to the same.
Only when small businesses implement strong data processes can such massive benefits be extracted from even easily affordable analytics tools. We strongly recommend that small businesses understand the leverage that strong data practices can deliver to their business, and commit resources in data management, archiving, and analytics processes.
Data security: A big part of your data strategies
Many times, small businesses understand the true value of data only when they face a situation where they could potentially lose it. However, by including data security as a component of your business’ data strategy, you can make sure that you don’t have to learn your lessons the hard way. Among the many aspects of data security, here are some you need to consider:
- The encryption of data at rest and in transit.
- The reliability of the encryption technology provided by your cloud storage vendors.
- The guidelines in your contracts about key aspects of data security.
- Measures to ensure data availability in case of downtime.
Readiness for the AI and ML boom
Artificial intelligence is already disrupting industries, and machine learning is among the finest and most trusted approaches to implementing AI. At the core of successful machine learning projects are strong data analytics and Big Data capabilities. This makes data strategies all the more important for small businesses that intend to leverage AI and ML in the times to come.
To make sure your business’ AI think tank is aligned with the core data practices, include one or two representatives from these teams in your committee meetings to decide on your data strategies. Machine learning algorithms “learn” by analyzing patterns in data, and using advanced statistics and probability theory models to evaluate and decide on the best responses to inputs. Larger and cleaner the core data in your business, the easier and better the ML algorithms become.
Connecting your business to your marketing goals
Every day, small business leads have to make marketing decisions, whether it’s about product pricing or distribution channels. Big Data makes sure that you get most decisions right! From basic data strategies to help your business understand customers, markets, products, and processes better to advanced data strategies that enable technologies to deliver massive insights on how you can market a product or an idea to a particular customer — you can achieve what you want, all by the dint of the right strategy.
Content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, product pricing, promotions mix, sales territory divisions, customer relationships management, loyalty programs — you name it, and you have unprecedented benefits to enjoy via strong data insights, backed by the right strategy.
Big Data is not only for big businesses
The big benefit for small businesses now is that even the best and most sophisticated of data analytics and Big Data technologies are available via monthly subscription plans, which makes then affordable and scalable. Plus, data analytics and Big Data vendors are happy to assist small businesses in getting their data strategies off the back pages of forgotten notebooks, and on to the biggest whiteboards in the biggest boardrooms!
Data is called the “oil of the future,” and the way businesses of all sizes and from all markets are ramping up their strategies around data, it’s clear that data is an integral source of competitive advantages for businesses. Is your small business ready to go big by surfing on the Big Data wave? The answer should be “yes.”