Big Data for Small Enterprise: Painful, But Worth It


It’s not just big business that can get something from Big Data. While they might only be talking terabytes instead of petabytes, small to mid-sized businesses have to just as much to gain – or lose – depending on how they act upon their customer’s data.

Not surprisingly though, small to medium-sized enterprises are finding that, just like their larger counterparts, the challenges of dealing with Big Data can be a bit of a headache. More than 50% of such companies report that they’re unable to act on their data quickly enough to derive any meaningful benefits, according to a new study from the analyst firm Aberdeen.

One of the most commonly cited problems for small and medium-sized businesses is the sheer pace at which their Big Data is growing, with 35% of respondents admitting that they can’t keep up. As a result, many companies are faced with problems such as an out-of-date IT infrastructure – they lack the means to process and analyze the information they collect, and without that ability it becomes all but worthless.

A quick look at the stats reveals that this is hardly surprising. The average medium-sized enterprise reports that the volume of data it collects is growing at a rate of 40% each year, while more than half report that they have crossed the five terabytes threshold which Aberdeen says is the magic number that ‘defines’ Big Data.

Given the challenges that they face, smaller businesses could be forgiven for being tempted to just give up the ghost, but to do so would be a mistake, warns Aberdeen Group’s Nathaniel Rowe:

“The way in which a Big Data program pays off most lies in how it enables you to quickly answer questions about internal business processes, partners, products, and customers.”

What Rowe is trying to say is that all kinds of insights could be lying buried deep within those terabytes and petabytes of Big Data. But trying to unearth them, while difficult, is well worth the effort – Aberdeen’s stats show that companies which adopt a well thought out, well executed Big Data strategy report an average 12% increase in revenues within the first year of implementation. Meanwhile, the same companies report a 14% increase in their customer base over the same time frame.

These are impressive figures, but even more illustrative of Big Data’s importance is this one: According to Aberdeen, those companies that implement Big Data projects and see them through typically perform 26% better than competing firms that fail to do so.

“In light of the growing data volumes we’re seeing, it’s ultimately less a question of if and much more of when small companies will have to face these challenges,” warns Rowe.