You can't swing a cat without hitting someone who's talking about the wonder of big data. It's everywhere and so are people who want you to buy some cure-all big data visualization or data management tool.

I have been in the big data space for a while, long before the term big data became another piece of business jargon that several people use, but few understand. As much as big tech would like you to believe that big data is about petabytes of data and complex technology landscape, don't be fooled.

What was once a conversation only for technologists in large enterprises is now a hot topic for entrepreneurs. "The explosion of big data should be seen as a huge opportunity for the entrepreneur who understands how to harness it," says Lisa Reeves, CEO of GridCraft. GridCraft provides SaaS (software as a service) tools to put timely, hard to access data into the hands of non-technical users.

While managing big data might not be your cup of tea, harnessing the power that big data can bring you should be one of the most used and valuable tools in your start-up tool belt. I asked Reeves what start-up executives and their employees should expect from big data. Here's her take:

Spend more time interpreting the data than managing the data. Reeves and her team need to be able to access different types of enterprise and third party data. They also need to be able to manipulate that data in multiple ways. "Data is a business person's most valuable asset. No matter the size of the business. As an executive, my time should not be spent on importing and exporting data. Because we have a handle on our data and tools that are easy for me to use, I am able to make smarter decisions and respond to changes as they happen. This sets me apart from my competitors," says Reeves.

Key take-away: If you spend all of your time navigating complex data systems instead of using data to make competitive decisions, you are wasting valuable time and money.

Give easy access to data with everyday tools that unite instead of divide. You have to make smart decisions. You have no choice. Business users should not have to know how to code nor should have to call a vendor or service center to pull a report. They also shouldn't have to chase down validation of data integrity or if insight represent another functional viewpoint. New tools like GridCraft mean ease of use, ease of access, and representation of multiple perspectives from enterprise, database, or third party data sources--all in real-time.

Adam Block, director of Finance and Operations at Simple Energy, a SaaS start-up serving the utility industry, is now able to plug live SalesForce data into manager reports. "Our live SalesForce data is connected to our forecast operating model in GridCraft. Now I am able to look at the latest data instead of stale, day-old or week-old data. This is a huge time and cost savings and facilitates much more frequent iterating," says Block.

Key take-away: It's the age of the business user when it comes to big data access and analytics. Look for tools that foster collaboration with real-time insights.

Don't believe that you have to drain IT resources. Reeves runs a data-driven business. "I need to be able to tap into databases, business applications, and other resources and pipe this real-time data into a spreadsheet. And, I don't have a large IT department, so I need to be able to do this without the help of IT support," says Reeves.

Sound familiar? Your best bet is a SaaS analytics tool with plug-ins to your enterprise systems and with connections to the third party tools, databases, and applications you use. With SaaS, you won't have to install or manage your big data analytics in-house.

Chances are that your IT department is already at or is over-capacity supporting current systems and they don't want to complicate the enterprise technical landscape either.

Key take-away: Look for a big data analytics tool that gives real-time insights without costly IT support or investment that is typically needed.

 

Published on: Dec 12, 2014