Looking to Use Big Data? Ask These 4 Questions.

Big data doesn't have to be scary; businesses just need to ask the right questions.

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By Daniel Newman


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Data streams are constantly flowing from the technology we use in our daily life. Phones, televisions, computers, credit cards and even sensor-equipped buildings are all contributing to the data stream. And all this data is not only growing in volume, but it's growing at a monstrous speed, doubling in size every two years. It is predicted that the data we create every year will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020. Now that's massive. But the question is: How are businesses going to wrap their arms around so much data? How do we even begin to make sense of it?

Studies strongly suggest that organizations that don't have proper data strategies in place now are likely to remain less profitable than their competitors who are making proper use of data-driven insights. A study by IDC revealed that companies that use diverse data sources, analytical tools (such as predictive analytics) and different sets of metrics are five times more likely to exceed expectations for their projects than those who don't use these big data strategies. And this isn't just for big corporations.

Related: Turn Your Data Into 'Lessons Learned' to Guide Your Marketing Plan

While small-business owners may get overwhelmed with big data, they should still consider gathering and using this information. The reason being is that as the business expands, the data pile is also increasing significantly. When all this data is sorted properly and analyzed, it reveals many important aspects of the business that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Data provides a tremendous opportunity for companies to identify, capture and assimilate bits of information that can help them improve their businesses. Don't you want to make use of those info-rich clues so that you can make well-informed decisions?

For small businesses interested in using big data, here are four questions you should consider:

1. What are the most pressing challenges in my business?

Think about the problems that your business may have faced over the past few months: employee attrition, failure in retaining customers, bad customer reviews, and the inability to meet project specifications or deadlines, any internal issues, or anything that has been particularly harmful to the reputation of your company. Prioritize the issues so that you can pay attention to what is most important from the very beginning.

Related: How to Tame the Big Data Beast

2. With better insights and information, how could I overcome challenges and improve my bottom line?

On the basis of data-generated insights, you can devise strategic plans to mitigate the challenges you face at an early stage. With the help of data, identifying problems becomes much clearer. Solving the problems takes less time, and you may be able to prevent them in the future.

3. How can I get to know my customers better?

Use data-driven customer intelligence to understand your customers' behaviour. Analyze customers' buying patterns. Listen to what they are complaining about, and pay attention to how often their problems are being addressed. These practices will help you form better customer-centric strategies.

4. How can I apply these insights and manage them to cash in on the opportunity that data has presented?

Forward-thinking companies understand that data-driven insights are excellent guidelines when it comes to managing the tricky aspects of businesses that are not always evident, but critical nonetheless. Using data to throw light on these factors can help you develop better plans for the future, and make them profitable for your business.

Big data is extremely versatile as it can be applied to businesses of all sizes and it can make a huge difference in big and small matters. All you need to do is understand where it fits within your organizational framework, and use it in the right context. Answering the questions will not only help you clear up your own confusion regarding big data but will also help you take a structured approach for utilizing data.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Collecting Customer Data

Daniel Newman

President of Broadsuite

Dan Newman is the president of Broadsuite where he works side by side with brands big and small to help them be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. He is also the author of two books, is a business professor and a huge fan of watching his daughters play soccer. 

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