“The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” – Gordon Gekko, Wall Street
I’m going to make a prediction. By 2020, almost all of the major companies in Africa will be the ones who have embraced Big Data.
You can quote me on that.
But what is Big Data?
If you’re like most web-savvy Gambian Entrepreneurs these days, you’ve probably heard of ‘Big Data’. It’s a phrase that it seems like almost everyone is using, but almost nobody understands.
I certainly didn’t, when I first came across it.
My initial lack of understanding encouraged me to dive deeper into the area, to see what all the fuss was about.
What I discovered is quite likely the single MOST powerful, leverageable asset that an Entrepreneur can have at their disposal in the 21st century.
In this article, I will present the case for why Big Data is the single most powerful thing that you’re not currently using as an Entrepreneur.
I will also suggest the best ways that you can begin to use it today, to supercharge the decisions you are able to make in your business.
But first, let’s define Big Data.
What is Big Data?
While Big Data sounds relatively new, it’s actually something that the human mind has been dealing with for a long time. All it is, is the collection of information that is all around us.
All the trees you see as you walk down the road. The conversations you hear happening all around you at the same time.
Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director, said
Big data is the signature feature of the Information Age. It reveals patterns we could never see before, patterns in consumer behaviour, medical treatments, weather events, just about anything we can think of. ( MIT OpenCourseWare)
This is all Data.
Data is information, and ‘Big’ Data is just A LOT of information.
What makes it seem new is the fact that now, we are able to use computers to more efficiently process and derive meaning from that same data.
This Data is now being digitised.
Conversations are now being captured on apps like WhatsApp and Twitter.
Trees are having ‘Internet Of Things’ devices attached to them so that we can know when they need water and how many nutrients they currently have and need.
All of this information, if properly harnessed, is a potential goldmine for an Entrepreneur looking to better understand the world around him.
Why is Big Data Such A Powerful Asset For An Entrepreneur?
What an Entrepreneur like you is constantly seeking is a direction. You are the captain of the ship. And while you may have some experience in the waters you’ve chosen, you still need a compass to let you know whether or not you’re going in the right direction.
This is what Big Data gives you. Big Data is your compass.
As an Entrepreneur, you live and die by your decisions. So any tool that gives you the ability to make better decisions is of incalculable value. And there is no better tool than relevant, curated information that lets you know what to do next.
As the infamous Military Leader Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “War is 90% information.”
With Big Data, you are able to look at the story behind the information and listen to what it really tells you.
How Can You Use Big Data To Help You As An Entrepreneur?
There are many ways to use Big Data to help optimize your business decision making. Almost as many as there businesses, as each niche has its own need.
What we will cover here, are the fundamental ways that big data can be used by almost all businesses, including yours, to gain insight and to help you make the right decisions.
These boil down to three key ways:
1. To Gain Market Intelligence
Most farmers in Africa fail to make a profit not necessarily because their crops fail, but because they are not able to accurately predict or gain access to data about the price in the market for their crops. Thus leading them to sell at fire-sale prices.
Being able to gain a scope of the market so that you can better know your next move is among the chief benefits that Big Data provides.
In your business, you might be looking for a different kind of market intelligence. But the general principle is the same.
Example of Big Data source: mFarm, which displays current market prices to farmers to help them better plan their harvest times.
2. To Better Understand Your Customers
Imagine if you could interview every one of your customers and let them tell you (honestly) what they’d like to make or do? How much of an impact would that have on your business?
Well, with Big Data, you can not only do that, but you can also do it from the comfort of your laptop or phone. And without even having to talk to customers.
Example of Big Data source: Twitter, Reddit, Amazon Reviews, here you can actually read through customers who are talking about, if not your product, products very similar to yours, and thereby gain insights into what they’re happy about and what they’d like to be improved. A great source of information to help you make product decisions.
3. To Gain A Better Understanding Of Your Own Business
By using organizational tools within your business such as Trello and Slack, you are able to see how your employees are actually working and communicating with each other. Being able to visualise this in real-time allows you to have a true birds-eye view of your business and how it runs.
This allows you to know where the business is going and to know what steps are necessary to change course if need be.
Ultimately, Entrepreneurship is a game of decisions.
With this new understanding of Big Data that we’ve outlined in this post, you now have the best decision-making tool today at your disposal.
So go ahead, find the data you need and start making better decisions today.
And if you have anything to add to this post, please let me know in the comments!
About the Author
Say hi to him on Twitter here.