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What can big data do for small startups?

Starting and continuing to run a successful business has always been a difficult task for any entrepreneur. While you may have a great idea, your business might not get the kick start it deserves due to issues either in or out of your control.

With the age of data upon us, businesses need to go back to the basics of what they see on paper, instead of relying solely on intuition and gut feel.

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Before thinking about how to use Big Data effectively, ask yourself if your business even uses data effectively. In other words, apart from your financial statements, do you have an idea of your business’ sales trends? How about the efficiency of your production line? What about insight about competitor products and your pricing?

While some of these questions are harder to answer than others, at the very least, any business should have the basic reporting in place to ensure a stable future; and can only advance to use big data to ensure a prosperous future.

Here are some tips to grow a data-driven culture in your business:

1. Garbage in — garbage out

The path to that prosperous future must be paved with strong bricks. If your data is not stored centrally, that should be the first place to start. In addition, quality checks need to be conducted to ensure that the material used to build those bricks are sound.

2. A brick layer that’s also an architect

To effectively use big data and analytics, you need to have a resource that is skilled in an array of fields –programming, statistics and business. Some might call this a business analyst, others a business intelligence analyst or even a quantitative analyst.

Read more: SA startup Monocle wants to boost companies’ online rep using big data

The trending term of data scientist has caught the eye of many.

3. Rome wasn’t built in a day

The parable of Sisyphus talks of a deceitful king, punished to roll a boulder up a steep hill, only for the boulder to roll back down again — an exercise in futility. Building up your data empire requires time, effort and sponsorship. Often, your data team needs the support of senior management to know that they add value to your business.

4. Small or big, data is data

Once you have a good handle on your business’ data, the next step is to enter the Big Data league, where you can access large amounts of complex information, generated at high speeds. Your data empire now needs to expand its borders by creating a more holistic relationship with your customers.

5. A house of data

Having laid the foundation, you now need to grow your business from actionable data insights. This can be achieved by profiling, segmenting and developing retention type models. These models could use internal business data, or even external data that is publicly available.

Read more: Big data, pet food and dating: these are 88mph’s 7 chosen SA startups

Your team of data scientists should be able to tell you which customers are about to leave your business, which customers are more likely to take up a product or how you can optimise your operations to improve efficiencies.

Image by r2hox via Flickr

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