shutterstock_97848701-288x300You will have heard a lot about Big Data, how it can add value, create breakthroughs and transform what we do – but you may be asking yourself – What is it, Do I have it and What do I do with it?

Here we will attempt to answer some of your questions.

What is it?

Data is everywhere. It is not just databases listing clients and suppliers, it is also in phone records, the operating reports of factory machinery and inside company cars. We create mountains of it every day, every time we go online, use social media or a device with a built in GPS or a credit card.

And it’s growing. A recent study by data experts IDC predicts that by 2020 data will have expanded by 50 times, driven by systems which are actually built into our everyday lives like clothing, medical devices and structures like buildings and bridges.

Do I have it?

Absolutely. But some of it will be easier to access than others. If you use technology to run your business then you have data. If you have ever taken a customer’s details and put them into a computer then you have data. But if it only exists in spread sheets or in a filing cabinet then you have data but it will be harder to use than if it was stored online.

A serious question for small and medium sized companies today is, are you using your data to make improvements?

What do I do with it?

So here is the crux of it. Once you recognise that you have data – (some it will be bigger than others) you need to get hold of a system that will help you use it to improve the products you provide or the services you deliver to your customers.

Maybe there is data you would like to own about your customers that you don’t have but with some thought you could perhaps design a system to get hold of it?

With the right software, capturing, storing and analysing data is all very straightforward – then you can start to see how you might generate value and potentially profit from it.

While SMEs traditionally did not have the same capacity as larger players to gather, process and analyse data, the IT solutions on the market now have levelled that playing field.

Cloud based solutions are particularly popular – a recent IDC study found that spending on cloud-based Big Data and analytics (BDA) solutions is set to grow three times faster than spending for on premise solutions over the next 5 years..

So if you are an established SME and you are not thinking about these issues, it’s time to get involved with Big Data or find yourself sitting on the side-lines.

There is absolutely no need to let the start-ups and the big companies get ahead. You have the data, now all you have to do is use it.