A new poll conducted on behalf of SAP shows that small to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are quickly waking up to the competitive advantage afforded by big data, and are apparently doing so even faster than their larger, multinational competitors.
The online survey, which was carried out by Harris Interactive, quizzed a total of 154 C-suite executives at international companies across a wide spectrum of industries. The results show that SMEs as a whole are moving faster to leverage big data than their competitors – although only 25% of respondents could agree on exactly what big data is.
Loosely defined, big data refers to large, complex data sets, although many SME executives fail to realize this.
Respondents were asked to define the term themselves, with 28% saying that it referred to a massive growth in transaction data, while another 24% thought it described technologies used to address velocity and volume challenges presented by big data. A further 18% of respondents claimed that big data was the name given to the deluge of information that stems from mobile devices and social media, while 19% said that big data describes data storage requirements for regulatory compliance.
Even so, while SMEs may not know exactly what big data is, or what it does, they most certainly understand its benefits. According to the poll, as many as 70% of SME execs are expecting to see a return on their investments in big data within the next 12 months.
Getting to the specifics, SME execs were able to cite several key benefits of big data that would boost their businesses in the next 12 months. More efficient business operations were cited by 59% as the biggest benefit of big data, followed by increased sales (54%), reduced IT costs (50%), improved business agility (48%) and ability to attract and retain clients (46%).
Cloud-based data technologies and Bring-your-own-device initiatives were seen as key elements of SMEs big data strategies, with 64% of respondents claiming that their companies relied on the cloud to a certain degree. Furthermore, access to big data is becoming more important in the minds of an overwhelming number of execs, with 90% calling it somewhat important bearing in mind businesses’ growing dependence on applications and mobile devices. Out of that 90%, just over half stated that they thought instant access to big data was “very important” or “essential”.
Steve Lucas, executive vice president of SAP, said that the results showed that every company needed to pay close attention to their big data strategy, irrespective of their size:
“Big data is the unprecedented growth and convergence of social, device, equipment and corporate data. There is an incredible amount of noise being created and without a strategy, companies will get lost in the noise. Big data is instant access to data and with instant insight, companies can be agile, act on emerging trends, engage with their customer base and also expose potential risks.”