A close-up of a server rack

Cashing In on Your Midmarket Data Value

6 Apr 2016 by Sally Clasen

Big data is a big business trend — and a game-changing tactic for companies to gain a competitive edge in a connected marketplace that never shuts down. And what’s available in the information galaxy to convert data into cold hard success isn’t likely to run out soon.

According to a recent study by IDC, the digital universe — the data we create and copy annually — is doubling in size every two years, and by 2020 it will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes. The study also indicates that the percentage of useful data that delivers real business value will grow 22 to 37% by 2020.

Moving data out of the closet

Larger organizations have used big data as a secret weapon for years, monetizing information to reinvent their businesses and streamline operations in ways that create operational and fiscal value. Yet midsize companies aren’t typically part of the big data conversation because of the perceived expense associated with storage and analytics.

The expanding digital landscape, though, is making it possible for growing businesses to leverage analytics like the big boys because of falling costs, easier collection methods and better tools to capitalize on big data's strategic power.

Another factor that surrounds big data is that many business leaders and information managers can’t cash in on its value because they don’t understand what to do with the information. They view it as an IT asset instead of a business commodity.

“The trend to see and use information as an asset is still in the 'early adoption' phase, making doing so a competitive differentiator for leading organizations. But even where information leaders have embraced this idea, there's an array of challenges to transform the idea of value into a reality that benefits the organization,” Gartner points out in its report published October 2015, “Seven Steps to Monetizing Your Information Assets.”

Mining for dollars

The Internet of Things certainly has opened up a new world for growing businesses to gain insight and take advantage of big data in a land once only visited by corporate giants. The ability to mine data 24/7 from the Internet, social media networks, and mobile devices and wearables that allow retail customers to make a point-of-sale transaction with a smartwatch means an endless supply of data retrieval and analytics for all organizations.

The growth of sensors and wireless communication technology embedded into products also is enabling those in the midmarket to anticipate customer wants and needs and, if necessary, make adjustments to messages and promotional engagement — a source of vital information that can dramatically affect agility in short order.

Collecting and warehousing massive amounts of data from all the interconnected parts, however, is just one step in building a successful big data strategy. If you don’t know what data you have or what to do with it, the competition will likely be able to tell you.

Discovering analytics objectives

First, a company needs to be clear about what it wants its data to do: Increase traffic to your retail space? Increase sales? Convert customers from one-time shoppers to loyal regulars? Eliminate operational redundancy? Next, it’s critical to identify the different sources of information assets that can be leveraged and the action you want them to take.

In a 2015 study conducted by Dell among midmarket organizations and larger, 41% of the companies that have adopted big data technologies are using it to target their marketing efforts, 37% are optimizing ad spends and another 37% are maximizing their social media marketing.

Whatever the goal, data should be converted to a form or product that answers a fundamental market or asset question. The information should reveal customer behavior and patterns and provide insight in real-time to what might be an operation bottleneck — like sales processes or a disruption in staff communication.

The results then can be used to create measurable methods for understanding a problem and to build a predictive business model that acts as a tangible asset to improve interaction with customers, reduce costs, enhance employee performance, drive growth and create markets in new ways.

Finding big solutions for those in the middle

Some businesses can afford to hire a data consulting firm, but mobile-based apps and Web and cloud software services, and sometimes a hybrid of all three, have certainly leveled the playing field for midsize companies to capitalize on big data opportunities and see what’s hindering performance without an IT overhaul.

Services such as Google Analytics, Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Salesforce and HubSpot are effective, affordable solutions for midmarket companies to gather business intelligence. Information sources range from basic self-service assets like text, emails and Web search tools to more complex offsite metric platforms that can produce large amounts of data sets and extract proprietary information including customer data from merchant transactions.  

In addition, pay-per-usage cloud rentals can help convert non-digitized data from the likes of spreadsheets and other traditional internal operations documents into data-crunchable information that reveals what’s happening in sales, marketing and even employee engagement.

Plus, a cloud service can be turned off when not needed. That means a company in the growth phase doesn't have to heavily invest in hardware to reap the advantages. And open-source software tools for big data can be downloaded and customized, further reducing costs.

Scaling a large asset

The term “big data” can be intimidating to those not operating on a large scale. But those in the midmarket can now easily move past their grandiose data fears and reap the benefits of asset information with enterprise-like wins, regardless of size.

Get started on your data monetization strategy today. Gartner provides a model for transforming data monetization into a significant business activity for most companies, suggesting a seven-step plan to drive value from your growing business' data, and we’ve made it available for free download: “Seven Steps to Monetizing Your Information Assets.”