dreamforce - imgIt’s clear that big data is important to business. Larger companies like Macy*s and Walmart are well aware of this challenge and are actively working on implementing big data structures and programs. But what about smaller companies? At Dreamforce 2013, I heard from two small businesses: Column 5 Media, who does the infographics for Baynote and Wesell.com, who specializes in event tickets.  We also heard from a medium-sized business, Prometheus.  They all spoke about how they are using data to propel their business forward.

What is big data?

“It used to be that big data was thought of as this big scary thing.. and you would be stuck with hardware.” In today’s era of cloud computing that is no longer the case.  But big data is not just one type of data – there are several pieces involved from “content [to] relationship management [and] all of them have data points” which tell you different things about your business that regular KPIs may not.

What does big data tell you?

For someone like Wesell.com, “big data” means beneficial event knowledge – knowing who is attending your event. That could be anything from what demographic they are in to how far they traveled. The initial challenge was corrupted data. Since data quality matters, it’s important that you review it. The team over at Column 5 Media, tracks data in their town hall meetings so the company can look at the history of the data and understand trends and how their business is changing.

What is the data going to show you?

“Data shows you new KPIs” said speaker Chris from Prometheus.  If you have the data and “bring all of the data sets in, you know if you have users or just viewers” he said.  Knowledge from big data gives the company the ability to affect the change they want to drive.  In “the new business, is every hour, day and minute at your finger points.”

Boris at Wesell.com gave it this bottom line, “If the person at the bottom of the totem pole doesn’t fill in the data correctly, than your big data is pretty much useless.”

What benefit is there to big data?

Efficiency. “Understanding what your customers want is important, and big data is the only way to get that,” Boris says. Wesell.com is now processing 100% of their data through Salesforce. Wesell.com also successfully managed to cut their workforce in half while increasing customer engagement due to their use of big data.

“Now that we’re fully implemented”, Column 5 Media  said, “two hours into a project an automatic email asks if the scope of the project is what we expected…half way through the project they receive another email.”  They went on to affirm that the benefit of big data to them is “knowing” and from there, they can make better decisions.

The panel left the audience with the inspiration to “get started on the big data journey” and to be open minded as big data will help you to better use resources, better understand customers and have  more visibility into your customers’ desires.