Midmarket Companies: Bring on the Big Data


Middle-market companies, those organizations that have between 2,000 and 5,000 employees, have heard big data's call -- and they seem to be as keen as large enterprises to get moving on it.

This news, shared in "Roadblocks Crumbling: Midmarket Companies See Early Success in Big Data," a Dell Software-sponsored report by Competitive Edge Research Reports, is most surprising to me in this regard: the rate at which organizations of this size are embracing big data. Of the 300 respondents, two thirds of whom were with US-based companies, 41% reported having one or more big-data projects in place already while 55% said they're starting one. Do the math with me -- that's nearly a 100% commitment to big data!

I have to tell you, if I'm a CIO or business executive at a midmarket company that isn't actively working with big data or outlining a strategic plan for its use, then I'd seriously be questioning my choice of employer. A 96% adoption rate is as strong a signal as you'll ever see to get with the program or go bust.

As Wayne Eckerson, director of research and founder of advisory firm Eckerson Group, said in the report, "In the age of data, companies of any size can gain a market advantage with better data."

But they've got to use the data, all the relevant data they can get their hands on, to make that difference. If they don't, well… Again, to quote Eckerson from the report, "SMBs (small and midsize businesses) have the opportunity to leapfrog their bigger competitors, but more than likely they fear falling behind the big guys even further."

Big data has no size bias. The benefits most reported by the midmarket executives whose companies have implemented big data are pretty much in line with what we hear from just about anybody who's overseen a big-data project at a larger organization. For midmarket companies, big data means faster decision making and enhanced marketing. It means improved product and service quality. And it means a better understanding of customer needs. It'd be easy to swap in "enterprise" for "midmarket" in these cases, right?

While midmarket companies and large enterprises aren't so different in how they perceive and benefit from big-data analytics, I do see more of a disconnect in organizational approach. Consider this nugget from the research: IT and sales and marketing are the most influential departments in big-data projects. IT? I don't see the same results cropping up among large enterprises, where CIOs often must wrest control of analytics back from lines of business that have circumvented them with big-data projects.

But in the middle market, IT seems to get a bit more respect relative to big data. The survey showed collaboration between IT and the business to be one of the biggest requirements for project success (along with proper skills and performance management). Perhaps the IT imperative is a reflection of the big-data tools in use within midmarket companies -- they're not messing around, as the infographic at right shows.

Midmarket companies certainly aren't above common problems associated with big-data implementations, including finding analytics talent, dealing with massive data volumes, and boosting processing power. But it's exciting to see that so many are being so fearless in the face of big data.

Readers, at what sized company do you work? Where is it on the big-data implementation curve? Let's talk below about how your experiences compare to what's reported here.

— Beth Schultz, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn pageFriend me on Facebook, Editor in Chief, AllAnalytics.com

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Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

Midmarket Companies: Bring on the Big Data

The "big" in big data is no reflection of the size of the organization embracing its potential.

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Re: Predicting the future
  • 10/13/2014 8:48:56 PM
NO RATINGS

@ Beth, I think that would make for a very interesting study. "How aware are customers of  marketing analytics?"  I can't say for myself I can think of a time I felt positive about it.  Usually, it has some degree of a yuck factor for me.   However, how many times have I've been blissfully clueless, well I have no way of knowing. 

Re: Big data dubious
  • 10/13/2014 9:11:38 AM
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It coulld be the numbers aren't exact as pointed out. There's still a lot of fear involved in change. :CIOs often must wrest control of analytics back from lines of business that have circumvented them with big-data projects," being one obstacle. But being a bit nimbler, the midmarket folks should surely seriously consider the change to keep ahead of the competition before it's too late.

Re: Predicting the future
  • 10/11/2014 11:28:08 AM
NO RATINGS

If predictive analytics is to have any future (at least in B2C realms), it's going to have to be subtle. Otherwise the "ick" factor will push customers away and undermine the loyalty that PA practitioners endeavor to cultivate.

Big data dubious
  • 10/11/2014 11:21:50 AM
NO RATINGS

I don't know how much stock to put in these numbers, Beth. Seems like companies of all sizes (not to mention their managers and executives) are conditioned to bark like trained seals when the subject of big data arises. It's like excellent customer service; product/service quality, or hiringdiversity -- who's going to be against them?

But how many companies are really doing something with big data, beyond lip service? Dell's study doesn't really dig into that.

Re: Predicting the future
  • 10/10/2014 4:26:54 PM
NO RATINGS

@Beth I agree. The customers should be surprised and pleased when they get the offer. It should be on target meeting a need they had, prompting them to purchase the company's product or service.

Re: Costs down
  • 10/10/2014 3:15:12 PM
NO RATINGS

True again, Tom. Self-service tools are a good starting point, at least.

Re: Costs down
  • 10/10/2014 3:04:43 PM
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I also think that much of the software has become more intuitive and easier to use. This means less effort and cost for the smaller companies.

Re: Predicting the future
  • 10/10/2014 2:48:53 PM
NO RATINGS

@Phoenix, I think the trick is subtlety -- customers shouldn't be able to tell a company has used predictive analytics to send along an offer, don't you think?

Re: Costs down
  • 10/10/2014 2:47:01 PM
NO RATINGS

@tomsg, that's true -- especially, too, considering that there are many viable cloud analytics offerings midmarket companies can take advantage of as well.

Costs down
  • 10/9/2014 1:56:10 PM
NO RATINGS

I think another factor in the interest of these mid-market companies is that the costs of solutions has come down. Not only does hardware continue to come down in price, but more competition has led to decreases in software costs as well. Couple this with more publicized results from big companies and more data scientists being trained and you have more resons for the surge in interest.

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