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How SMBs Can Overcome Data Challenges to Drive Value

AWS’s Ben Schreiner offers insights on how SMBs can overcome data challenges to drive value. This article originally appeared on Solutions Review’s Insight Jam, an enterprise IT community enabling the human conversation on AI.

The cloud has emerged as a critical tool for businesses of all sizes to access and synthesize data to make better decisions, yet small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) struggle to make the most of the data they collect. We recently surveyed more than 800 C-suite executives, VPs, and directors from SMBs and found that more than half of the SMBs surveyed indicated that don’t know what insights their data could provide. Further, more than half don’t understand the ROI that analytical tools could deliver.

What that means is there’s a huge opportunity for SMBs willing to take the leap and invest in the kind of data tools that can give them an edge in the marketplace. A data-driven approach to decision-making can empower businesses to proactively detect issues, forecast trends, and drive growth. In fact, research from Forrester indicates that advanced insights-driven businesses are 2.8 times more likely to achieve double-digit growth year-over-year.

While there is a clear ROI for investments in a business’s data strategy and data tools, SMBs are still struggling on their journey toward being more data-driven organizations. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges they face and how they can overcome them.

Understanding the Art of the Possible

For SMBs, simply knowing what’s possible can be one of the biggest challenges, but it’s also one of the easiest to overcome. SMBs have data but often lack experience in data management and don’t know what tools can convert information into insights. Regardless of where an SMB is currently storing data, the condition of their data, or how few people they have to administer it, the right cloud provider can help SMBs of all sizes turn that data into rich insights. And, SMBs do not need to be or hire data experts to derive greater value from data.

With access the right tools and data-driven insights in the cloud, SMBs can enhance operations and reduce operational costs, improve the customer experience, and drive considerable growth. And, it’s not necessary to be a big company to harness the power of big data, businesses just have to take advantage of the technology that’s available to them.

Unifying Your Data

A common challenge – particularly for SMBs – is data integration. While many have begun to migrate their data to the cloud, data can often remain disconnected and siloed. If SMBs are integrating data from various sources, such as social media, e-commerce platforms, and Customer Relationship Management systems, siloed data can prove to be a major hurdle. As a result, the data can provide only a piece of the puzzle rather than the full picture. Without a holistic understanding of their data, this can result in misleading information or guidance, which incumbers decision-making that’s truly data-driven.

The cloud is the fastest way to get visibility into and integration of all of your data. Cloud analytics and data management can help by integrating data from diverse inputs such as sales, engineering workflow management, and even social media to create projections and give a business confidence when they’re placing a big bet.

Cleaning Your Data

To generate meaningful answers, businesses need high-quality data, which can also be a common problem for SMBs. Often, manual data entry, partial datasets, and data silos degrade the quality of data, which can also skew insights developed from the data and impede the effectiveness of data-driven decision-making.

With the cloud, SMBs can automate data entry, calling on the power of AI to help locate, consolidate, and organize all the information at their disposal—not to mention refine and clean as needed, and govern future data entry to keep analytics running smoothly.

Finding the Right Technology Partner

For the kinds of decisions that can make or break a business’s growth trajectory—things like whether to double down on production capacity, branch out into new product categories, or launch a major hiring push—cloud insights can be invaluable. The capability to do that starts with creating a back-end architecture that will enable SMBs to access and analyze data quickly and accurately. The right cloud provider can make all of this possible.

So, what should an SMB look for in a cloud partner? Most important is to find a provider willing and able to tailor their service to the unique needs of the business. Smaller or mid-sized companies don’t need all the bells and whistles that large-scale business might, and they certainly don’t want to pay for services they’re not using. That said, most companies don’t want to stay small forever, so they’ll need the flexibility to be able to evolve cloud services right alongside business needs.

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