"Big data" is one of the biggest buzzwords in business today, but the benefits of analytics often seem to be available only to bigger companies with bigger budgets. Small businesses may feel like they're in the dark, with these tools and technologies seeming to be far out of their budgets. Does it make sense for small organizations to become players in the data analytics space? The short answer? Absolutely.

There are a few steps that small businesses can take to help turn big data into smart data and streamline operations. Here are some tips that may boost efficiencies without breaking the bank:

Focus on a Few Company-Wide Metrics

For many organizations, big data often feels like an avalanche, with companies collecting any and every data point imaginable, including customer retention rates, monthly retention rates and prospect close rates. This collection strategy can be overwhelming for smaller companies that have limited resources to manage collected information.

Rather than implementing these metrics from the top down, ask team members to choose and prioritize metrics based on the needs of their role. Piece this information together for a complete, organization-wide picture.

Give Each Metric the "So What?" Test

Your employees have finite attention spans, and you need to make sure that they're focusing on the right tasks. It's easy for employees to get sidetracked with metrics that look interesting but don't deliver any real insight.

According to an article in Harvard Business Review, "Good metrics have three key attributes: Their data are consistent, cheap and quick to collect." The article cautions against celebrating metrics that have no real bearing on the success of your company.

When choosing metrics with your team, try to make sure that each one is actionable. Your company's key performance indicators (KPIs) can help you decide how to streamline operations on cost and revenue sides of your business.

Implement a Company-Wide Analytics Dashboard

Running a small business with a small team, you have a strong advantage over your counterparts: Everyone in your office knows one another and likely speaks to one another daily, if not hourly. Each team member knows who is responsible for what, who has the answers they need, and who's on vacation and not available for quick analysis. Even still, it can be challenging for employees at fast-moving organizations to stay in sync and have a complete data picture. It isn't practical to be creating ad-hoc reports in spreadsheets, either.

There are services available that help companies create data dashboards with little to no overhead. Just focus on a few metrics that are important to your business and make sure your team has continuous access to this information. With everyone on the same page, you may be able to streamline operations.

With the right tools, systems and processes, big data can be accessible to small businesses. Simplicity is the key: Focus on a few metrics, and collect data strategically. Choose KPIs that help your business grow.

Tags: KPIs big data streamline operations smart data Data and Analytics