The primary fact we need to appreciate is that big data is only going to increase in relevance as technological capability increases, and this is true regardless of the size of your business. Therefore, big data is not something any of us can ignore. We can’t stick our head in the sand and just hope it goes away!
Most business owners recognize this fact but are often overwhelmed by the seemingly Herculean task they face of extracting meaningful information from the sea of data. They read stories about the eye-popping results that other organizations have enjoyed and how they never discard any data, how everything in these data-rich companies is captured and analyzed to within an inch of its life because it’s valuable and potentially offers unique and powerful insights for business development.
For most business leaders, the very idea of collecting and storing everything is genuinely terrifying. Not least because they already have a mountain of archive material that is lying in dusty folders in the basement; never mind having to deal with all the new stuff that is generated every single day. Even a moment’s contemplation of the issues a business faces in the big data world can be exhausting and stressful: What constitutes everything? What sort of format will we use? Where will it be stored? How will it be stored? Who will use it? Who will own it? How will we pay for it? What will we do with it? Where do we even start?
Don’t panic. Most businesses have more than enough data to use constructively. And while it is certainly true that companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook enjoy a considerable competitive advantage because of the amount of data they have access to, vast budgets, and teams of data scientists whose only job is to analyze that data, you probably have more than enough data in your business right now for you to tap into the power of big data without stellar tech or eye-watering budgets. And even if your business hasn’t kept very good or thorough records or doesn’t hold a huge amount of existing data, there are definitely enough external sources to extract commercially relevant insights.
The SMART model offers a much-needed way to navigate the oceans of data to find the pockets of meaning that can transform productivity, efficiency, performance and, ultimately, bottom-line results.
- S = Start with Strategy
- M = Measure Metrics and Data
- A = Apply Analytics
- R = Report Results
- T = Transform your Business
Every business, regardless of size or access to analysis-ready data, should Start with Strategy in the SMART model. Even if there are enticing-looking analytics tempting you into full-scale data discovery, you should only ever divert 10 percent of your resources into data discovery techniques, especially at the beginning.
The reason is simple: Without a structure and process, you can easily get lost down interesting rabbit holes for years. The SMART model can help you cut through the chaos, confusion, and sheer volume of data that exists. Instead of starting with the data and considering what it might tell you, start with specific business objectives and what you are trying to achieve, and use the data to figure out how well you are doing toward meeting those objectives. This will automatically point you toward questions that you need to answer, which immediately will narrow data requirements into manageable areas. Plus, it will ensure you stay focused on data that will deliver real value rather than interesting asides.
Once you know what you are trying to achieve, you need to Measure Metrics and Data. This involves exploring all the possible types and formats of data that currently exist or could exist that could help you answer your strategic questions. Once you’ve identified what those metrics are, you then Apply Analytics to the metrics and data you have identified as being relevant and potentially insightful.
Extracting the insights, however, is only part of the puzzle. You then need to Report Results and make sure the results get to the people who need them in order to improve decision making and performance.
These three stages of the SMART business model are underpinned by technology. Technology will help you collect the data that you need to measure, it will facilitate analytics in ways that you have probably never considered before, and it will allow you to convert the insights into data visualizations that can be quickly and easily understood and turned into action.
When you approach data (big and small) and analytics from this narrower, more focused and practical perspective, you can get rid of the stress and confusion surrounding big data, reap the considerable rewards, and transform your business.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, strategic performance consultant, and analytics, KPI, and big data guru. He helps companies to better manage, measure, report, and analyze performance. His leading-edge work with major companies, organizations, and governments across the globe makes him an acclaimed and award-winning keynote speaker, researcher, consultant, and teacher.
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