Big Data: Grow without just growing data

Data, and the amount of it being collected, is growing. With the term ‘Big Data’ appearing everywhere in the business world, the question is whether businesses can actually process growing amounts of data and create useful information from it effectively.

It’s all very well having access to large amounts of data but businesses need to fully understand what they’re collecting and how to use it to gain insight into how the company is performing and what challenges need addressing. Being able to effectively process and analyse this data is the key to helping businesses improve decision making and initiate action as they strive for growth.

Manufacturers, in particular, can benefit from additional insight into customer or supplier data to identify patterns across their supply chain. 46 per cent of manufacturers have cited better forecasting of product demand and production as the top area in which Big Data could improve manufacturing. For example, if a manufacturer can use historic data to identify correlations between customer demand, product mix and maintenance patterns of machinery then they can better predict delivery times, make more informed materials decisions and ultimately increase operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Manufacturers need to understand what data can tell them about how all aspects of their business are performing and use this to help increase the responsiveness of their supply chain. Whether that is gaining a deeper understanding into customer behaviour, levels of wastage or spending patterns, businesses can be in a much better position to quantify what is working and what isn’t if they understand what the data is telling them.

The trouble is, with 70 per cent of CFOs still relying on Excel spreadsheets to access and analyse their data, the question is whether businesses are properly prepared to realise the benefits that Big Data can offer them. Without the infrastructure to process, analyse and present this information in a usable form, business leaders risk becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of it. In industries like manufacturing where technologies such as automated data collection is becoming more common and increasing the levels of transaction data, businesses need to ensure that they have systems in place which can adequately organise and analyse that data to deliver insight as opposed to just numbers.

To maximise operational benefits, businesses need to implement a software solution which can not only collect and store data, but produce the metrics and measurements that reveal the most about the business. This in turn will drive the most value by helping businesses make informed decisions and grow. That isn’t necessarily just growth of turnover or revenue, effectively processing data can also help prepare businesses for expansion into new markets, the introduction of new product ranges or the commissioning of new facilities.

Armed with a modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) system which includes sophisticated and mobile-enabled analytics tools, businesses are ultimately better positioned to tackle the issue of Big Data head on.

Harnessing the power of Big Data in this way is vital for businesses to become more proactive when it comes to responding to market changes and to increase the agility of their business and their supply chain.

Fundamentally, if businesses know what data they are collecting and why, have the infrastructure to efficiently analyse the data to provide valuable information, then this insight will drive growth. In this light, Big Data is an opportunity everyone should embrace.

Martin Hill, Vice President Marketing, Epicor International

Image source: Shutterstock/Carlos Amarillo