What big data means for small businesses

The insights enabled by massive data analytics applications aren't just the provenance of enterprise companies. Get ready to hear a lot more about big data for SMBs in 2013.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Think your company is too small to benefit from the analytics capabilities and insights offered by so-called "big data" applications? Think again.

While most small businesses would never dream of installing the infrastructure to run massive data analytics applications because of the cost involved, a number of software developers - including well-known accounting application vendor Intuit - are developing services that small and midsize businesses (SMBs) will be able to use to derive more insights about their customers, marketing campaigns and financial status.

One example is SiSense, which allows small companies to draw information out of the transaction statistics being collected on their e-commerce sites and in CRM databases (including Salesforce.com).

The company's business intelligence software, Prism, is intended to be used by business analyst (rather than IT experts) who are interested in running "self-serve analytics," said Amit Bendov, CEO of the company.

Prism can visualize trends pretty much on the fly. Companies can buy the capability on a subscription basis or via an on-site license. While there are plenty of logos for massive consumer brands on the SiSense Web site, companies as small as 10 people are using the application regularly to gather more business intelligence from the data they've collected, Bendov said.

"Our mission is to make this available to anyone," he said.

That's also the philosophy behind Intuit's new big data push announced in mid-December. Intuit's strategy is to better use the collective data of more than 60 million consumers and to allow its customers to benefit from this "collective wisdom." The company doesn't intend to share anything that's private, but in the future, QuickBooks Online users will be able to run more analytics against their own data as well as the information behind collected across the network.

One example is the QuickBooks Online Trends feature, which shows small companies how their revenue and income stack up against their peers. Or Intuit Loan Finder, which will help them generate information to help finance growth initiatives, at the best possible rate available.

"Big data has long been seen as an opportunity for big businesses," said Brad Smith, president and CEO of Intuit, in a statement about the new initiative. "We actually think that the biggest opportunity is giving consumers and small businesses the power of data. We look forward to a new era where big data benefits the little guy."

If you think about it, there is no reason why any small business that relies heavily on tools such as Google Analytics - which offers marketing campaign metrics - shouldn't be looking for the same reporting capabilities for their other company data. Indeed, so-called "big data" analytics are probably something that should become a check-off item for any cloud services that your small business may be considering.

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