Mine Big Data's Promise. Selling Info You Gather Is a Profitable Sideline. Not only can your company gain from analysis and insights. You can market these products to other firms.

By Asha Saxena

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Do you really understand the value of big data? Is your company tracking the right performance or operational metrics? Are you finding meaningful data sources?

Yes, your company probably already makes key decisions based on some performance metrics and customer tracking. But if you've already found meaningful data sources and integrated them into your company's infrastructure, you might be sitting on a gold mine of opportunity.

Some entrepreneurs have already moved past their original business ideas to capitalize on big data. Although many companies are generating and interpreting large data sets, the business world's attempts thus far have only scratched the surface.

You don't have to completely ditch your business, infrastructure, skills or loyal customers to expand and enhance your business with big data. Instead you can pivot from what you're already excelling at. Here are four ways your company could shift its focus to join the big-data stampede:

Related: Disruptive Technologies Highlight the Importance of New Data Roles in Companies

1. Sell information you find in raw form.

Once you start thinking seriously about data and have discovered avenues and methods for collecting it, you can sell the raw data you've gathered to other businesses. Publications and government contractors need access to such information.

Companies like Bloomberg have focused operations around this simple premise because businesses need data to make educated decisions and understand industry trends.

2. Monetize the analysis.

While quantities of raw data can be valuable to businesses, the value soars when the information is interpreted and broader, real-world applications are presented. Your company can wield such insights to prompt cross-selling or upselling to current clients.

Consider selling these insights to relevant companies. You could even create a consulting service for businesses that uses data to be a branch of the original company.

3. Use infrastructure to support ecommerce firms.

One significant winner in the rise of big data has been the ecommerce landscape. Big data can be used to track and predict customer behavior, which can help companies personalize the shopping experience by suggesting new products and make more informed pricing decisions.

If you've mastered these big-data applications, consider starting your own ecommerce business or selling your platform or infrastructure for monitoring data.

Joyent is one company that has monetized its data organization and collection services, using the public cloud and private cloud software to provide businesses with a ready-made infrastructure for harnessing data. It offers the company a template and gives them upfront tools for automating and consolidating data collection and analysis.

Related: What the 'Internet of Things' Means for Enterprising Entrepreneurs

4. Find new business opportunities.

If your company is effective at tracking prospects through the sales process, you may be able to provide others with the tools to attract and nurture new business leads, too. Tracking leads can be crucial to understanding how close the individuals involved are to a purchase, what their interests are or the type of information they need to clinch the deal.

Big data has applications in nearly every industry. As a Boston Consulting Group publication reported, "Grocery retailer Tesco has worked with its Dunnhumby business unit to build a big-data business that analyzes millions of customer transactions and sells the resulting insights about shopping behavior (but not customer-level data) to major manufacturers, including Unilever, Nestlé, and Heinz."

Take a step back and think about data on a broader scale. There might be opportunities to tap that are far more profitable than what's in your current business model.

Of course, the process of building a successful big-data business is more complex than merely collecting data and reaping the benefits. There will be inevitable challenges to prepare for.

You need to be highly adaptable and keep a solid chief information officer and IT team on board to spot trends and developments. Malicious hackers are more savvy than ever, so be wary of suspicious activity and hire third-party auditors to evaluate the company's security yearly.

Companies need the infrastructure and analysis you have to offer. If you go boldly and intelligently into the world of big data, you can take what already exists and monetize your insights.

Asha Saxena

President and CEO of Aculyst Inc

Asha Saxena is Columbia University Professor and founder of Aculyst Inc. a healthcare big data solutions and advanced analytics services firm


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