The Power of Big Data for Startups

Opinion

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organization intends to use big data – both over the short term and long term, along with what this will entail in terms of resources such as costs, time, and effort. Revisit your strategy periodically, and ensure it reflects the organization’s priorities – that it is targeted and specific in identifying how the results of your big data analysis will tie into your company’s broader corporate and strategic objectives.

In terms of execution, my advice is to start with small steps. First you have to walk before you can run. Execute a few simple analytics to see what they can do for your business. Stick to a small sample of data, instead of trying to analyze everything at once. For instance, you could track what people are saying about your product on social media sites over the span of one month, so that you can analyze the data to create more targeted marketing campaigns.

If the insights are useful from your early efforts, you might want to gradually scale up to capture more data points such as website traffic and browsing behavior, as well as inputs from customer relationship management systems and other sources. At this point, after some trial and error, you will be able to apply more advanced analytics that can help you slice and dice through the data to derive even greater and more actionable marketing intelligence.

One last point to note: Big data often includes very sensitive data, such as customer profiles, home addresses, credit card information, and purchase histories. Therefore, it’s important to have robust security controls in place at every stage of your analysis process – especially if you’re considering outsourcing any of your data analysis to a third party.

3. Choose the Right Tools

Let’s face it – big data analysis isn’t something that you can or should consider doing manually, even if you’re just a small startup. You will (and probably already) have a lot of data, so it’s best to start looking for tools that can automate the process of harnessing, sorting through, and analyzing all that data.

To that end, there are plenty of affordable tools out there. Google Analytics, for instance, can help you understand your website traffic better. Kissmetrics tracks individual visitor behavior throughout their journey on your site, while MixPanel measures how people are using your mobile app. Then there’s InsightSquared which analyzes historical performance data to forecast sales. SproutSocial and Hootsuite can help you measure your social media performance and impact.

In other words, the tools you need to derive rich insights from data are already at your fingertips. All you need is a bit of research to find out which tools best suit your organizational needs.

Entering the New Year with Big Data

As you prepare and finalize your business plan and budget for the year ahead, it is wise to consider how big data will fit into the mix. While other day-to-day tasks might seem more important at the moment, as you think longer term, it is important to plan for those investments that can be transformative for your business. So, take the time to pinpoint what areas or challenges your business is looking to address. Then explore what innovative big data analytics tools can help solve those challenges and uncover new opportunities for growth. Success in the new year hinges on being able to look ahead; to create an effective strategy, leverage the right technology tools needed to better understand your business and your customers, and finally, act on the insights you derive.

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Shellye Archambeau is CEO of MetricStream, a Palo Alto, CA-based company offering governance, risk, compliance, and quality management solutions to enterprises in the pharmaceutical, medical device, high tech manufacturing, energy, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, food and beverage, and automotive industries. Follow @metricstream

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