How big data helps Skinny manage its customer base

How to glean customer insight from big dataSkinny CEO Ross Parker didn’t have to look far when he needed a better way to spot trends in the mobile company’s sales data, he went to big data consultancy Qrious, another Spark business unit.

Parker says despite being simple, the system is already uncovering powerful insights: “We can see straight away if our offers work. We can look at the store level the next day to learn what happens with promotions.” He has ambitions to move to the next level of analysis which he says will include predictive modelling.

This is from case study I wrote last year for TechTarget’s Business Information ANZ eZine. You can download the whole publication for yourself, it does mean filling in a form but once you’ve done that there’s a wealth of other useful material on the site.

Five technologies small businesses should use everyday

G.Courbet, Die Steinklopfer/ 1849 - Courbet / The Stonebreakers / 1849 -Technology can’t solve all small business problems, but it can make day-to-day work easier. Here are five tools every small business should use everyday. They cut costs, add capability and help your company punch above its weight. None are expensive:

Smartphones, tablets and mobile apps: Phones can do so much more than make voice calls. If you do nothing else, use them to get email while on the move. There are millions of mobile apps replacing almost every possible computing task.

Smartphone apps are cheap and easy to use. A smartphone means you have all the information and functionality you need where-ever you are. Expect to pay around NZ$1000 for a decent smartphone or tablet. Apps are usually less than NZ$10. 

Cloud computing: Storing documents and data in the cloud is cheaper than running your own servers and less trouble. Back-ups are automatic. Best of all, you can get at important information from your mobile devices while away from home or the office.
Basic cloud services are free. Annual subscriptions for more storage will rarely run to more than a few hundred dollars.

Software as a service: Software as a service (SaaS) delivers applications online. Remote servers do the heavy lifting, this means  you can use powerful applications from a smartphone or tablet. Done well, SaaS means zero administration – you no longer need to worry about updates or making back-ups. Not always cheap, expect to pay anywhere up to around NZ$70 a month per application. 

Digital communications: This includes voice-over-IP calls, instant messaging, video conferencing and collaboration tools. Staying in touch is important. The specific tools depend on what you do, in each case the cost of digital communications is lower than conventional communications and often there are other advantage. Largely free, although you’ll need to pay for the data traffic. 

Company website: Go where the customers are; online. A website tells people where to find you and what to expect when they do. You can list your products and services, even do business directly from your own web site. Basic sites are free, expect to pay around $2000 for a more complicated, professionally made site. 

High-handed Google undermines its technology stack

Google’s decision to kill Google Reader underlines the risk you take when committing to the company’s technology stack. You really don’t know where you stand with Google and its products from one day to the next.

There’s an obvious danger relying on free software and services. The provider has no financial or contractual obligation to carry on delivering. Hardheaded commercial organisations like Google care little for any moral obligations.

What you might see as essential business tools exist only because of Google’s whim. The company can pull the plug at any moment.

This applies to Gmail and all the Google Drive apps. It applies to the Chrome browser, Google+, YouTube and Google Maps. All of these services are free. Google could stop them all tomorrow if it wishes.

As I wrote earlier: sometimes free is too high a price.

Google’s high-handed approach to running its business sounds alarm bells. I wouldn’t put my faith in a paid Google Apps account.

Sure Google has a financial incentive to keep Google Apps running, but the revenue from online business software is such a tiny fraction of the overall business that it could comfortably leave thousands of users in the lurch barely showing a blip on the annual result.

Closing Google Reader may only a small annoyance when taking a bigger picture view of technology, but it undermines trust in Google’s entire technology stack. A prudent business user can’t risk committing to an uncertain stack.