Small Business Best Practice: Getting Started With Your First Big Data Project


A lot of the discussion around information technology trends at the moment centers around thegetting started with your first big data project concept of big data which is the idea that organizations of all sizes have to increasingly cope with more and more information, both structured and unstructured, that they need to manage for multiple reasons.

Whether it driven by legal reasons such as meeting legislative compliance requirements, delivering products and services to customers or managing competitive information the volume, type and location of this data is constantly growing and eventually most businesses will find that they have a need for some kind of solution to help them manage it.

This then takes the business down an evaluation path that has multiple concurrent areas that need to be considered and a few of the primary ones that I have encountered when discussing the issue with business owners and managers focus around cost of hardware and software to manage the influx of data, cost of software to visualize and prepare/present the data for interpretation and of course, the cost of up skilling staff to be able to interpret that data.

These are all, without doubt, critical considerations that need to be factored in but are relatively “tactical” in nature and assume that a decision has been taken to implement some kind of solution to manage this data and as Sun Tzu once observed in his book The Art of War – “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” so my proposition is that you need to first built a strategy around how your business will utilize this new source of information.

So what do you need to consider as part of the strategy and how do you build and explain it to all your stakeholders in a way that helps them understand the objectives and more importantly, get on board as part of the project?

Well, start simple is always a great piece of advice that I have seen reap rewards time after time regardless of the project.

There’s always a temptation to go with a big bang approach and try to roll out a project that will impact on all aspects of the business however, my recommendation is to start small and pick a specific department or team in the business that can benefit from such an initiative.

You’ll know which one is the right one in your business but I have found that there are 5 key questions that can help you in the process of determining the best way to move ahead and identifying the business value.

The 7  Questions You Need to Ask When Contemplating a Big Data Project

  1. Do you have a central system of record in the business where all customer data is stored such as an ERP or CRM solution? It’s the natural place to start.
  2. Do you currently rely on your information systems to record transactions and what are those transactions related to? Where and how are those transactions stored?
  3. Where are the opportunities to improve your decision-making inside the business – sales, purchasing, expense management, competitive analysis, customer service?
  4.  Are there large sources of data that you haven’t been able to record/query in the past because the technology was too complex or expensive?
  5. Do you have people in the business that can leverage the data effectively and if not can you find them?
  6. Are you in a position, both from a financial perspective and from a resourcing standpoint, to implement the recommendations and key findings of the project?
  7. Can you leverage the information to improve your financial position – boost sales, lower costs? How will you do this?

The opportunities to leverage data for better business operations are almost endless and can come from traditional areas such as the companies ERP system, from leveraging data that exists in publicly available data repositories, going back to prior years of data and bringing that data together for trend analysis – even simple areas like looking at web site logs, social media interactions and so forth.

Of course all these approaches hinge on having a relatively large and statistically relevant amount of data so you are probably thinking that if you are a startup, then there’s some way to go before you will be ready for such a project.

As Steven Covey identified in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the key habits is to begin with the end in mind, so if you are a startup, you are in a great position to think about the data you need to start gathering from day 1 to help you and how you’ll use it as well as the 6 questions I have already raised.


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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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What If Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho Could Be Proved Right In Medical Staff Row?

Mark Goad

Big Data and the Internet of Things brings new level of insight to sports medicine

With the 2015-16 European football (soccer) season underway, we are already seeing the impact of the huge pressure to succeed. In some cases, it is boiling over even this early on, with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho getting involved in a very public row with his medical staff over the treatment of Eden Hazard during a match. As the season builds momentum, all clubs know one of the most vital aspects of winning trophies is keeping the best players fit so they can play at the top of their game as often as possible.

Last season, just like in every season, we saw injuries that affected teams’ results and possibly their final standings at the end of the season, while other teams capitalized. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed injuries for the team’s failed title bid, while Real Madrid suffered injuries to players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric at a crucial stage of the season and lost the title to Barcelona.

There’s no doubt that football clubs, especially the bigger teams, employ first-rate medical staff – physiotherapists, doctors, sports scientists, and so on – but they can only do so much to keep players off the treatment table. Players are human, after all, and keeping them injury-free for such long and grueling campaigns is a big ask. This season again will see players on the end of crunching tackles, over-exerting their bodies, and over-stretching.

What’s less talked about than lost games and league titles when discussing injuries is the salaries paid to injured players. The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top four professional football leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million* per team. Remarkably, every year teams lose an equivalent of 15%-30%** of their player payroll to injuries.

As salaries continue to rise, injuries are becoming just as much of an off-the-pitch boardroom issue as they are an on-the-pitch issue. Consider that if Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the world’s highest-paid player, spends just a week out injured, the club still has to pay his weekly salary of around $1 million. Not only that, but there’s the huge potential for lost revenue from missing out on UEFA Champions League progress or domestic success because key players are out.

Just as winning seems to mean more than ever, so does football as a business. So with the spotlight firmly on “sweating the assets” – extracting maximum value from the entire squad – clubs are looking to Big Data and Internet of Things technology to consider how player injuries can be prevented with new levels of insight.

Prevention is better than cure

In July this year we saw what could be a huge landmark in the potential of monitoring the risk of injuries, when football’s international governing body FIFA announced its approval of wearable electronic performance and tracking systems during matches. As well as collecting data on statistics like distance covered and heart rate to determine decisions like substitution timings, this also paves the way for wearable satellite devices that keep medical staff updated on the likelihood of a player picking up an injury from over-exertion.

Emerging injury-risk monitoring software uses the concepts of Big Data and wearable technology to pull in and apply mathematical formulas to an exhaustive range of relevant data about players: fitness levels, recent levels of exertion, opponents, age, technique, hydration, even weather. This could help medical staff predict the risk of future injuries with much greater accuracy, allowing them to run simulations and take corrective actions in real time. Imagine a seemingly non-injured key player being substituted during a tightly contested match, only to find out afterwards that monitoring software had indicated he was at a high risk of pulling a muscle. This could very much be a part of the future of professional football.

Going back to Jose Mourinho and his reaction to the Chelsea medical staff running onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, it’s interesting to consider how in the future this kind of technology could either support or discredit his position in the dispute. It could help managers work more closely with physiotherapists, as they can visualize the data that shows the risk of injury to players. Although the pressure to win will likely keep on rising, the risk of expensive players injuries could see a big reduction.

SAP’s own injury risk monitoring software is currently in the proof-of-concept phase and will be entering development in the near future. The goal is to build IRM on the SAP Sports One platform as an additional component, and to provide integration to the existing modules of SAP Sports One solution. SAP Sports One was launched earlier this year and is the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by the SAP HANA platform, providing a single, unified platform for team management and performance optimization.

*Statistic calulated using 2015 Global Sports Salaries Survey

**Bleacher Report “Inside the 2014 Numbers of Each MLB Team’s Regular-Season Injury Impact” and NBA Injury Analysis


Mark Goad

About Mark Goad

Mark Goad, Value Advisory Associate, SAP Canada, is an experienced business analyst with industry coverage spanning telecommunications & retail, with a focus on digital business models. He specializes in synthesizing industry trends with a detailed analysis of client-specific data to help customers build out high-impact business & IT strategies. Outside of work, Mark volunteers as a lead management consultant for Junior Achievement of Central Ontario and contributes to a range of thought leadership publications.


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Three Reasons Why The Internet Of Things Is Showing Hockey Stick Growth

Paul Clark

The already massive amount of data being produced daily is going to proliferate with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). An innovative infrastructure must be able to accommodate the billions of connected devices being introduced worldwide that will generate unfathomable amounts of data.

“Within the next three years, the data created by IoT devices will reach 403 trillion gigabytes annually.”
– 99 Mind-Blowing Ways the Digital Economy is Changing the Future of Business, Source: Cisco, Global Cloud Index

Less than five years ago, Big Data was thought of as a data management challenge. Today, supercomputing power is everywhere, microprocessors are in every device, computers can be scaled as needed, and in-memory, real-time computing solutions are revolutionizing business software. As a result, data volumes are expected to grow to 6 billion petabytes, including unstructured data such as social networking and low-level IoT data.

The concept of IoT is not new, but what is new are the factors contributing to the popularity of IoT. The SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World, says the extensive growth in the IoT market is due to three main factors:

  1. Inexpensive sensors. The cost of product sensors has dropped dramatically, allowing even startups to easily create innovative IoT product applications.
  1. Stronger computing power. Analytics and in-memory computing solutions enable the computing power necessary to gain insightful meaning from big data and data lakes in real time.
  1. Internet protocol IPv6. The new IPv6 enables immense IoT expansion by increasing IP addresses from 32 bits to 128 bits, which could support up to 78 octillion Internet addresses, allowing an almost unlimited number of people, processes, data, and things to be connected to the Internet.

How to manage it all

As everything becomes more connected, how will we use and manage this unprecedented amount of data? Data management and in-memory computing solutions are increasingly essential tools. They enable companies to unlock immense value from the volumes of data being collected from an escalating number of sources such as product sensors, mobile devices, machines, asset monitors, computers, and social media platforms.

New advances in in-memory computing technology delivering enriched interactive analytics will make it easier for businesses to combine structured transactional data from existing applications with new contextual data from multiple other sources, including IoT applications.

As the number of IoT sensors increases, the amount of information created from this exponential growth in IoT is sure to bring new meaning to the term “Big Data.”

Learn more about IoT, data analytics, and other facets of digital transformation in the SAP eBook Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.


About Paul Clark

Paul Clark is responsible for developing and executing partner marketing strategies, activities, and programs in joint go-to-market plans with global technology partners. The goal is to increase opportunities, pipeline, and revenue through demand generation via SAP's global and local partner ecosystems.

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