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Big Data #8: Big Data for the Small and Medium-sized Businesses

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Internet has created equal opportunities for all enterprises worldwide. Whether you were a huge enterprise or a startup, you could build a website and send marketing materials right away without incurring the big printing and distribution costs. Then, online sales helped the small businesses to build and “deploy” their virtual stores at minimal costs. And then the cloud came, saving small businesses from spending massive amounts of money to build their datacenters. Finally Big Data arrived. At the first sight, it offered nothing for the small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The storage systems to hold the massive amounts of data and the computing power that needed to harvest that data were simply out of reach for the SMBs. Even the tools that needed to be purchased required a significant amount.

I cannot say that this is the case for each and every business and no one can convince me otherwise. There are two ways to go for the SMBs in the Big Data arena.

The first way is to go with the pre-built business analytics tools. This way requires minimal time and effort from your IT department. Many providers offer turn-key solutions for both various industries such as healthcare, retail, transportation etc. and specific business areas such as supply chain management. These prebuilt tools have a lot of built-in reports and dashboards that are ready to be used by the employees.

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Corporations almost always fall into the trap that an installation of a pre-built business analytics tool is all it needs to jump the wagon for the Big Data. No matter if you are an SMB or an enterprise, no one except you can identify which areas you need to deploy Big Data analytics. You need to carefully select a business area for the Big Data project that is relevant to your business and that the whole management team, including the IT department can embrace. This is one thing that no consultant can successfully define (OK, they can ask the right questions to guide you but they cannot tell you what you should do. If they try to do that, be careful. I have discussed this behavior before.) Big Data is just a tool between the concepts and the data. It is nothing on its own.

Once you are done with identifying the area to deploy business analytics, you can hand over your data to a consultant, who will take over the implementation process. Depending on your agreement, they will either implement the whole or part of the Big Data architecture for your company (including the storage systems, the computing power, networking systems and the analytics tools).

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This implementation has two other immediate benefits. First, it will save time and effort from researching and implementing the industry best practices, because they will already be embedded in the consultant’s work. Second, it will save time from building systems and reports that no one will use.

At this point, one may ask why not use the cloud for the Big Data project. In fact, there is no reason why not. It is just that I chose to go with the traditional data center point of view in the article. However, if you choose to walk the cloud way, I have to warn you to reread the cloud provider’s agreement. There may be some clauses that may give the provider the right to “anonymize” your ideas; such as taking the idea of your custom business analytics report and deploying it free or with a premium to its customers in its pre-built report pool. Just observe the due diligence that you perform with the security to the other areas of the contract if you walk the cloud way.

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The second way to go with the Big Data project is to develop your own talent. I have discussed this extensively in my previous article, so I will not go into the details here. From a business point of view, developing your own talent can be a very viable investment. Not only you will have custom tailored business analytics in your organization but also accumulate a deep Big Data know-how in your business area that may be sold to the late-adopter companies operating in your sector.

Finally, from a consultant’s perspective, I can say that Big Data is an area today that almost every person has no background in. That means, even if you are starting from scratch, with employing a fresh graduate just out of school, you are not too behind. However, if you have the funds, starting with some pre-built tools will definitely save you some time and will get everyone’s hands dirty. Given the necessary effort, there is nothing that will prevent you from deploying your own solution or from selling your expertise in the future.


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