Question: Big data refers to large groups of data that can be harnessed (analysed and evaluated) for certain trends and patterns, the data having the potential to identify the relationship between information and human behaviour. As big data becomes the trend, can big data be too “big” for SMEs? How can SMEs build capabilities or infrastructure to derive value from big data that can help to grow and sustain their business?

Answer: We are living in the ‘I’nformation age; every minute we are bombarded with excessive information and data from the Internet, emails, research, reports etc. People are spending lesser time on taking actions, and more time on gathering information. It is more crucial than ever to be meticulous with our use of data and management of our time.

A few rules of thumb:

1. Set clear objectives what you want the data for. Identify what data is required for respective purposes of each business initiative.

2. Don’t follow trends blindly and collect everything. It may be trendy to collect lots of data. However, the data collected may not all be useful or relevant to your business.

3. Make time to purge and prune the data regularly as old data can become obsolete.  Trends and markets are dynamic; they are ever-changing and old data, if not stored properly and up-to-date, may hinder the strategic positioning of your business.

4. Understand the correlation between data collected and your company’s marketing/HR/sales strategies.

5. Follow through market research with actionable plans. Having a plan without action is futile and similarly, amassing extensive data without a plan is as good as not having data at all.

6. Constantly review with your management team, the ways to optimize primary and secondary data that are available.

7. Train or hire data analyst professionals if need be, to have better clarity of trends and market conditions.

8. Sometimes, less is more – too much data can be confusing and overwhelming.

9. Stay focused on your core business needs.

Data is a means to an end but not the end itself. With an increasing number of data systems readily available in the market, it is crucial to select the most appropriate system or tool that can best address the requirements of your SME. Seek help from an industry expert or consultant where necessary.

About the Workplace Doctor: Angeline is the President of PEPWorldwide (Asia) Pte Ltd and the Managing Director of d’Oz International Pte Ltd. She has helped SMEs and multinational organisations and their employees Peak Everyone’s Performance. As The Workplace Doctor, she provides solutions and formulate strategies to address workplace issues and challenges. She co-authored three books with top leadership gurus like Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey and Jack Canfield. When she is not writing, she coaches entrepreneurs and senior executives in the region.