Big data and business intelligence present many challenges to the average company. How do you collect data ethically and legally? Then, how do you use it, keep it fresh, and get the business intelligence data that you need from it?
Depending on the industry you are in, you may face unique challenges. Healthcare agencies, for example, may face specific rules regarding patient privacy and data security they need to adhere to to secure their data. Banks, law firms, CPAs, and others may also have special security concerns. All companies today, but especially those involved in online businesses of some type, must adhere to GDPR policies—the ruling that came out of the European Union on data collection and maintenance. Clearly, handling big data and business intelligence isn’t something you should take lightly.
Overcoming Big Data and Business Intelligence Challenges
There are three main challenges when it comes to big data and business intelligence:
- Data capture, which involves the collection of data
- Cleaning, which means updating your data so that it is accurate
- Storage, which includes aspects of data security
Data Capture: Accuracy and Timeliness
The biggest challenge during the data capture phase is the accuracy and timeliness of the data. Healthcare organizations often struggle with this since people’s health changes all the time. That’s why your dentist, doctor, and pharmacist often ask you if anything has changed in your medical history each time you visit them. It’s not that they’ve forgotten who you are or that they don’t keep accurate records; to the contrary, they want to be sure their records are both accurate and timely.
To overcome the challenge of data capture, it’s essential to put into place systems for capturing and updating data. Consider asking customers to log into their account annually to confirm their data. It’s a simple enough step that they might be willing to do it. Ask customers when they call your business to confirm their address, including their email addresses. When new customers input their name and address into a form field, ask them to retype it to catch any errors. Each of these steps takes a few minutes and ensures accurate data capture.
Clean Data Is Happy Data
Data cleaning means updating a database to correct errors and update contact information. It may also mean eliminating duplicates. Data from one database can be compared to a second set of data and, if any obvious duplicates are found, suppressed. A second set of records with possible duplicates can be flagged for manual review.
For example, a database with “Henry Owens” and an address of 123 Main Street may also contain a record for H. Owens at 123 Main Street. It’s possible that Henry is married to Hannah, and that both Henry and Hannah want to receive separate mailings. But it’s also likely that at one time, Henry wrote his name down as Henry Owens and in a second interaction with the company, he listed his name as H. Owens. In this case, your company has duplicate records. One needs to be cleaned. But which one?
You can contact Henry Owens and ask him to confirm which is his record. Or you can guess and choose Henry Owens; if three orders came in for Henry and one for H. Owens, chances are good he prefers listing his name as Henry.
In any event, cleaning up the data on this record reduced the database by one file record. That may not seem like much, but if you mail out physical catalogs each year, or newsletters and updates, you’ve just saved a lot of money in printing and postage costs. You’ve also corrected your customer file so you have a much more accurate record of your current customers.
Storage and Security
Last is the question of data storage and security. Data files can get big—very big—with some requiring several servers to house all the relevant data. Cloud-based storage offers many small to mid-sized businesses both the space they need and the security to keep the data safe.
Cloud servers are usually protected by sophisticated firewalls and multiple layers of security. Data hosted off-site also prevents hackers from getting to it through a loophole in your website or from someone in your company clicking a phishing email. Cloud servers can also expand to accommodate more data so, as your company grows, you won’t need to invest in costly hardware. Just increase your account size with your cloud host company.
Big Data and Business Intelligence – Time to Get Serious
Yes, big data and business intelligence pose many challenges for companies. But, it’s time to get serious about both if you intend to grow your company. The information you can derive from your business intelligence system offers many insights for growth, new client acquisition, new products, and more. It’s up to you to take advantage of it.
Mindover Software is a software reseller offering business intelligence, along with a broad range of accounting, ERP, finance, customer relationship management, and other software products for Acumatica and Sage software. For more information or other software needs, please contact us or call 512-990-3994.