If you’re still saying, “Big data isn’t relevant to my company,” you’re missing the boat. I firmly believe that big data and its implications will affect every single business — from Fortune 500 enterprises to mom and pop companies— and change how we do business, inside and out. It doesn’t matter what field you operate in or the size of your business; as data collection, analysis, and interpretation become more readily accessible, they will have an impact on every business in several important ways. 1. Data will become an asset to every business. Even the smallest businesses generate data these days. If the business has a website, a social media presence, accepts credit cards etc., even a one-person shop has data it can collect on its customers, its user experience, web traffic, and more. This means companies of all sizes need a strategy for big data and a plan of how to collect, use, and protect it. This also means that savvy businesses will start to offer data services to even very small companies. It also means that businesses and industries that never thought big data would be “for them” might be scrambling to catch up. Let me just make this as plain as possible: If you own or operate a business, and you have questions about how to improve that business, you have data, your data is an asset, and it can be used to improve your business. Simple as that. 2. Big data will enable companies to collect better market and customer intelligence. Like it or not, the companies you do business with know a lot about you — and the quantity and diversity of what they know about you is increasing every year. Every company (from car manufactures who will monitor our driving to tennis racket manufacturers that know how often and how well we play) will get much better insights into what customers want, what they will use, what channels they use to buy, and so on. The other half of this equation is that companies will need to be proactive about creating and maintaining their privacy policies and all the systems and security needed to protect that user data. As we’ve seen with the recent backlash against Spotify and to a lesser extent Microsoft 10, most people will allow companies to gather this data, but they want transparency around what’s being collected and why and they want the ability to opt-out. 3. It will improve internal efficiency and operations From using sensors to track machine performance, to optimising delivery routes, to better tracking employee performance and even recruiting top talent, big data has the potential to improve internal efficiency and operations for almost any type of business and in many different departments. Companies can use sensors to track shipments and machine performance, but also employee performance. Companies have started using sensors to track employee movements, stress, health, and even who they converse with and the tone of voice they use. In addition, if data can successfully be used to quantify what makes a good CEO, it can be used to improve the HR and hiring process at any level. Data is breaking away from the IT department and becoming an integral part of every department in a company. 4. And data will allow companies to improve the customer experience and build big data into their product offering. In the best of all possible worlds, companies will use the data they collect to improve their products and the customer experience. John Deere is an excellent example of a company that is not only using data to benefit its customers, but also as a new product offering. All new John Deere tractors are equipped with sensors that can help the company understand how the equipment is being used, and predict and diagnose breakdowns. But they’ve also put the sensors to work for the farmers, offering access to data about when to plant, where, the best patterns for ploughing and reaping, and more. It’s become an entirely new revenue stream for an old company. As we invite more connected things into our lives — from smart thermostats to Apple Watches and fitness trackers — there will be more and more data, analysis, and insights that companies can sell back to consumers. These are just the top four impacts I predict big data will have on businesses of all types in the near future. Is your business ready to capitalize on these opportunities? What are your predictions about big data? Do you see it impacting your business now or in the future? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.