Super algorithms aided by bots with artificial intelligence are making it possible to harvest data from a large variety of sources. Social media, banks, online e-commerce businesses such as Amazon place tremendous value on data. Mergers and acquisitions, worth billions of dollars, are often guided by the quantity and quality of data that they bring to the table. This data allows a laser-sharp definition of target markets, which can now be focused on a single individual. Customer targeting is made with precision that was not available even three years ago. Cloud-based data storage has made it possible to store immense quantities of data, and then convert this huge flow of information into useful market insights. We are now fully immersed in the era of mass data.
The large multinationals are at the cutting edge of this movement and have become prime movers in applying the harvested information to grow their market share. The potential for data is vast and it can transform any business. Marketing strategies, targeting, segmentation, and operations can all be made more productive and efficient through better data.
Small businesses must embrace data – But is the small business sector at a disadvantage in this data onslaught? They certainly don’t have the size and heft to gather and use data to the same extent as the large players. But they can surely establish a creative IT department that can organize their data flow better, and tap into the data banks of others. Government legislature is moving towards increased sharing of data so as to create a more even playing field for all. The European Union has taken a lead in this direction and is expected to draft regulations on this crucial matter soon.
Become good data flow managers– Small businesses must take up the challenge of modernizing their IT departments to compete in the global market with the big players. By transforming themselves into good data flow managers they can fuel their performance at every level. Not getting on the data bandwagon is no longer an option, it is a path to obscurity. But solely gathering data is not the solution in itself. The challenge is to turn this data into an actionable plan.
Obtain outside assistance – IT know-how can be leveraged by employing the services of outside experts who specialize in data utilization. This can offer a more competitive boost to small businesses unable to afford the top talent. In this age of specialization and global connectivity trusted IT consulting companies can be used as mentors and facilitators for small business. Empowering the IT department in this way should be part of every business plan.
The data loop – Access to mass data allows companies to keep up with technological transformation. This is accomplished by analyzing the volumes of data generated during design and production. Every company can, to some degree, convert their data into a continuous loop of useful feedback for improvement.
Match IT solutions to specific industry needs – This is a fundamental principle of marketing. Mass data optimize this connection and provides a much sharper image. IT departments must also learn to anticipate change in this age of rapid creative destruction and find a way to adapt to innovations like machine learning, 3D manufacturing, robotics, and cyborgs.
Check the cost benefit of IT investment – Most small businesses don’t have deep pockets, so the investment in IT must be tied to tangible results in sales and profit growth. It is important not to get caught up in the technological buzz, and incorporate changes without analyzing the cost to benefit. Leveraging the IT department with outside assistance, and introducing new software should be approached with care. Look for the best value by choosing potential IT partners that have a proven record of success, and bring the experience and skill sets that are well suited to your particular business.
**If you enjoyed this article you may also like our book,
“DIY Business System”, now available on Amazon.