Big data, cloud, and mobile: what every small business needs to know – part 1

Perhaps you’ve heard of the word “convergence” in regards to today’s digital technologies. Convergence describes the correlation and alignment of key capabilities in the areas of mobile, cloud, and Big Data to provide more powerful solutions than each technology can provide by itself. This transformation, in turn, helps to drive all kinds of new business models and opportunities. We hear a lot as well about the way enterprises are adopting these technologies, but what about the small business or startup? What can be said about their approach to Big Data, mobile, and cloud?

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In this two part series we want to look at the Big Data, cloud, and mobile nexus from two perspectives, first as digital technologies that provide clear business value in and of themselves, but then also as integrally related and connected technologies whose business value is greater than the sum of their parts. Let’s unpack what this all means for a small business, and how their leaders can leverage these convergent technologies to drive new levels of business value and innovation.

1. Big Data is not too big for the small business

Big Data continues to churn away as one of the most formidable technological and market influences of the modern digital era. Companies are collectively spending billions on this phenomenon. A few years ago the World Economic Forum declared that data is now an asset – on a par with gold, silver, and precious stones. The implications for businesses of course are profound since all this data provides a goldmine of new 360 degree insights on customers and what they’re saying about the their products, brands, and services.

 

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And yet there remains a common misperception that Big Data is only for large enterprises with big budgets that can afford to invest in data scientists and all the tools and shiny objects to extract the latest insights. The commonly held view is that when the volume, velocity, and variety of your data exceeds your capacity to process, then you have a Big Data problem. The underlying assumption here is that small businesses don’t have a big data problem because they don’t have enough data to worry about. However, nothing could be further from the truth! As one analyst has well stated, “Big data is a relative term. Every organization has a tipping point, and most organizations – regardless of size – will eventually reach a point where the volume, variety and velocity of their data will be something that they have to address.” Small businesses indeed can be active participants in the Big Data space, and there are no lack of tools on the market to help them move the needle forward on their strategy plan.

2. Small businesses are going to the Cloud

Cloud computing has exerted more influence on the business side of IT than any other single technology. Now any business unit with a credit card can connect to a cloud-hosted service in less than 5 minutes for a fraction of the cost and no setup headaches. The impact across IT is truly revolutionary and we can expect this to continue exponentially. According to a recent study, the real value of cloud services for SMBs is access to services that were once only available to enterprises – and for a faction of the cost:

Cloud computing can help level the playing field for smaller firms. It allows them to access sophisticated IT services that were previously out of reach. For example, it can allow them to manage and monitor their sales, operations and finances in real time.

Think of all the applications now in the cloud and easily available with a couple clicks of your mouse: cloud storage, office tools, data warehouses, virtual desktops, project management platforms, and the list goes on.

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Research indicates that cloud adoption is steadily growing among SMBs. For example, in the U.S. the cloud market is expected to reach $32 billion by the beginning of 2016, representing a 19 percent year-over-year growth rate from $18.9 billion early in 2013. Onboarding your organization into the cloud will be a key differentiator that will help keep a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced market. If your business hasn’t adopted cloud yet then it’s already behind the curve. It’s not too late to catch up, but you’ll need to act fast!

3. Mobile is the future of small business (and all business for that matter!)

Mobile is the future of small business and perhaps the future of everything. It’s such a fast moving target and there is so many innovations happening in the industry that it’s hard to keep up with everything. The industry fortunately has moved beyond the well-hashed out debate of Native vs. HTML5 (HTML5 has won the day!) and is now focusing on more central concerns. “Mobile First” is now the paradigm that businesses are adopting, realizing that responsive web design by itself is not enough. In addition, user experience and design for alternative form factors is getting a big push from the wearables market, which really took off in 2014, and is expected to receive another major boost from the imminent release of Apple Watch. In fact, the Cupertino, CA based tech giant is expected to create a whole new open market for smartwatch apps, and the iOS developer community is already getting onboard. Mobile voice apps are also a big trend right now and may well eventually make SMS text a thing of the past. Finally, the mobile market is also going to be heavily impacted by the Internet of Things and the commoditization of more “endpoints” coming online, which will need to be managed in a more holistic and integrated manner (something called “Unified Endpoint Management”). The mobile space is nothing if not exciting right now . . .  and there are ample opportunities for the small business to innovate here.

 

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Please join us tomorrow as we continue the discussion in part 2.

 

 

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