For SMBs, cloud-based analytics could be ‘great equalizer’

Cloud computing has been termed "the great equalizer" for its ability to level the playing field between small and large companies. So far, it appears to be living up to that reputation, especially when it comes to data analytics

Information Management cited statistics from a recent Saugatuck study, which found that 40 to 60 percent of companies expect to utilize cloud-based business intelligence by 2016, including both full-scale and hybrid initiatives. By 2016, nearly 40 percent of enterprises are expected to transition to entirely cloud-based solutions. 

If small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) aren't among the heaviest adopters of cloud-based BI, then they should be. In a recent interview with Small Business Trends, Bruce Bedford, vice president of marketing analytics and consumer insights at Oberweis Dairy, detailed the enormous impact that data analytics had for his company

Oberweis Dairy, a retail dairy store chain based in the Midwest, wanted to improve its in-store experience. 

"We observed people might stand in line for quite a while, but generally they were stuck behind a person who was looking at our menu boards trying to determine what appealed to them at the moment," Bedford told the news source. 

The company then started delving into the situation, concluding that the menu layout was leading to substantially longer wait times. With the use of data analytics, Oberweirs Dairy "determined there was one particular design that solved two problems," Bedford said. 

The first, he said, helped the company find a solution that would lead to lower wait times, while also improving the likelihood that "people were selecting items that increased the revenue per ticket." Bedford also pointed to the fact that data analytics has led to a 30 percent increase in customer retention, which is one of the biggest challenges for retailers in the digital age.

If all of these benefits can result from a simple analytics process, then why haven't all companies – and especially SMBs – started using these solutions? There are several obstacles that have stood in the way, such as:

  • High costs.
  • Poor access to data across different departments.
  • Difficulty storing enough information, particularly with on-premise databases.

This is where cloud computing can pay enormous dividends. 

Saugatuck analyst Bruce Guptill said that IT complains regarding data analytics "have always centered on how to find, access and effectively utilize the data available," according to Information Management. But with the help of the cloud organizations "will have the reach and scale of data access that removes most barriers to finding and accessing data."

That includes SMBs, as cloud-based analytics is affordable for organizations of all sizes. 

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