Small businesses are generally much more willing to use the cloud than they were a number of years ago. Yet SME take-up of cloud analytics is still not that common – why is this and how can providers make the most of this opportunity?

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Use of cloud services by small businesses has been slower than one might have expected, given the cloud’s suitability and attributes – flexible pricing, easy access, speed of roll-out, scalability – to those small businesses. However, over the past five years or so, (mis) perceptions about the security and reliability of cloud services have been turned around and it is unsurprising to learn that a majority of small businesses now use cloud services of one form or another.

However, while this is encouraging, many of those services are merely cloud-versions of software the small businesses were using before – word processing, file storage, that kind of thing. That’s not to say that this is without benefit, but cloud analytics remains a relatively untapped resource. These are services that can add immense value to a small business without them really doing any of the heavy lifting themselves. Yet small business take-up of cloud analytics is low.

cloud analytics remains a relatively untapped resource

A step into the unknown?

Part of the reason that small businesses have been relatively reluctant to use cloud analytics is a general lack of awareness. I run a fintech start-up, and analytics is an integral part of our small business credit-checking SaaS, CreditHQ. However, we work with 27,000 small businesses, comprised of hundreds of different business types, and many of these are simply unaware of what cloud analytics services there are, and how these might help their business.

People can get too involved with the day-to-day running of a business to remain up-to-speed with all the latest technology and platforms available. The founder / manager of a small business may well also be responsible for marketing, HR, IT and other disciplines, so keeping track of these services is just one of thousands of items on the ‘to-do’ list. There is also a fear of the unknown – to the uninitiated, even the term ‘cloud analytics’ can sound overly techie. Throw in other terms like ‘big data’ and it is easy for business owners to assume such things are not really for them.

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Insight-packed data

But the reality is, there are many cloud analytics providers out there that will do nearly all of the work on behalf of a small business. In our case, we know that trying to understand complex set of data about every customer is the last thing a busy small business needs, so CreditHQ’s Insight Engine looks at this information and decides what’s important, suggesting how businesses can respond when dealing with different types of customer or different circumstances.

Many questions can be answered with relatively few data sets, it just requires smart analysis

The same is true for all manner of other services, from sales forecasts to recruitment, and it is not even the case that a small business needs its own big data. Many questions can be answered with relatively few data sets, it just requires smart analysis and extrapolation of insight.

And there are many options for doing this, it just takes a little research to find the best option for a particular business. If there is resource within the small business, and it’s a small volume of data being analysed, then a spreadsheet will be more than adequate for identifying trends and segmenting insights. Otherwise, a small business may want to investigate external analytics providers – none should be too expensive, all should deliver true insight back to the business.

Of course, insight on its own is of little use – it is how that insight is used that can make the difference. But if a small business can identify a particular issue to address, then cloud analytics can make a world of difference.

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Martin Campbell, MD, Ormsby Street

Martin Campbell is MD at Ormsby Street, the fintech startup behind CreditHQ, a free online tool that analyses credit data to help small businesses understand the financial health of their trading partners and improve cash-flow. A serial entrepreneur, Martin focuses on high-growth digital businesses and the use of technology across retail, commercial, finance and not-for-profit environments. Martin has worked with businesses in the UK and internationally and supports young entrepreneurs and startups through his mentoring and training work.