Skip to main content

Big Data and Small Business

Vol. 26 Issue 4

Post Categories: Tech

Your guide to managing disruptive technology.

In films like “The Matrix” and “Blade Runner,” disruptive technology takes the form of rogue androids longing to be human or suffering from a Big Data glitch in their algorithms. Technology may not be as life-threatening as Hollywood portrays, but innovation is often disruptive. Consider the impact of email on direct mail marketers or of the internet on travel agents.  What emerges is a cautionary tale that technology breakthroughs can be hazardous to your business.

Clayton Christianson, Harvard Business School professor, first used the term “disruptive technology” in his 1997 book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” to describe the advantages of innovations and the perils of ignoring them. The next big disruptor you can’t ignore is Big Data. The looming impact of Big Data can be similar to a tsunami waiting to happen. Don’t wait for the tidal wave. Your business has options for managing technology disruptions if you choose to be proactive.

Defining Big Data

Big Data describes data volumes too large for traditional data processing. The term also is used for predictive analytics, as well as other methods of capturing value from data.

Big Data’s growth is fueled by the explosion of devices and sensors capturing that data. According to IBM, 90 percent of the world’s total data has been created just within the past two years. There are no signs of a slowdown in this data generation or its business impact. Fortunately, Big Data’s proliferation has also created a fast track for the development of applications that capture and analyze data.

Here’s a guide to managing Big Data’s impact on your business.

Customer Relationship Management

Companies that capture and analyze customer data to enhance loyalty and predict prospect behavior have a competitive advantage. No matter how busy you are today, your future profitability depends on identifying sales opportunities faster than your competitors. If you haven’t invested in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, now is the time.


Transaction applications do more than speed up the payment process. Many apps also provide predictive marketing data, such as recency and frequency of purchases, as well as total and per purchase dollar volumes.

If your transaction processing application doesn’t support a range of digital payment options and analytics, it’s worth reviewing the current software landscape. Two of many sources are PC Magazine’s Card Processing Index, which includes search criteria based on your business, and Small Business Trend’s list of digital payment options.

Digital Wallets

The flip side of payment apps is the growing number of digital wallet options for consumers. As the smartphone becomes the device of choice for digital payments, supporting these options and incorporating mobile access to coupons and loyalty programs will become increasingly important. Before you accept digital wallet applications, get familiar with the current players as this market emerges and consumer adoption increases.

Business Intelligence and Analytics

Spreadsheets are a business basic. However, in a Big Data environment   they’re not enough to keep pace. Business intelligence tools enable you to see the big picture and the predictive view of your data in order to make better, faster decisions. Start by surveying the range of small business intelligence tools. PC Magazine’s review (,2817,2491954,00.asp) can be a helpful place to start. Once you have selected an app, test it within a defined activity or function and introduce it gradually into other areas of your business.


Make security a priority. Request and read the written security policy for all applications you introduce into your business. Your policy review should include the following, as well as other elements:

  • Customer and provider roles in data protection
  • Overview of security standards
  • Physical location and security of data facilities
  • Industry certifications
  • Service Level Agreement and downtime

Big Data can help you turn bigger profits if you turn it to your advantage rather than letting it overwhelm and disrupt you.