Big Data of Growing Importance to Small Businesses: SAP

Mobile devices and social media are prompting businesses to leverage big data to boost competitiveness, an SAP report indicates.

Small to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are waking up to the benefits big data can offer their business and are realizing the competitive advantage it can hold, according to an online poll of 154 C-suite executives at international companies, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of enterprise application software provider SAP.

The survey suggested these businesses are moving faster than their larger competitors to leverage big data, although just 25 percent of respondents could agree on a similar definition of big data, a loosely defined term used to describe large, complex data sets.

Among the various definitions respondents applied to the term, 28 percent defined it as the massive growth in transaction data, while 24 percent described it as new technologies that address the volume, variety and velocity challenges of big data. The deluge of information stemming from social media, mobile devices and machine-generated devices was cited by 18 percent as their definition of big data, while 19 percent characterized it as the requirement to store and archive data for regulatory compliance.

Regardless of the definition, survey results indicated SMEs are aware of the benefits big data can provide, with 70 percent expecting a return on their big data investments within a year. More specifically, 59 percent cited more efficient business operations as a primary benefit, followed by the ability to boost sales (54 percent), lower IT costs (50 percent), improve business agility (48 percent), and attract and retain customers (46 percent).

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives and cloud-based data management technologies are key components of a big data investment strategy, according to the survey, with 64 percent of respondents saying their companies use cloud technology to some extent. As companies turn to mobile devices and applications to run their business, access to big data from these devices is top of mind among C-level executives, with 90 percent calling it somewhat important. Out of that group, 57 percent said instant access is either absolutely essential or very important.

€œEvery company should be thinking about their big data strategy whether they are big or small,€ Steve Lucas, executive vice president and general manager of database and technology for SAP, said in a prepared statement. €œBig data is the unprecedented growth and convergence of social, device, equipment and corporate data. There is an incredible amount of noise being created and without a strategy, companies will get lost in the noise. Big data is instant access to data and with instant insight, companies can be agile, act on emerging trends, engage with their customer base and also expose potential risks.€