Phil Simon: What Startups Can Learn from Large Companies About Big Data

August 1, 2013

8:51 am

Let’s pretend, for a minute, that we’re living in the state of nature. I’m 5’5″ (ugh, fine, I’m 5’4.5″), so, naturally, I would invariably try to compete and survive in this land of giants. If you’re a small guy, you’re obviously going to try to make use of all the resources available to help you survive; otherwise, you die and some 6’2″ giant will eat you AND burn your stick collection. In a way, this is how Phil Simon interprets a blatant disregard of Big Data in business strategy.

Simon is a renowned speaker and author of five management books. He’s widely recognized as a tech expert, who consults organizations on how to optimize their use of technology. His most recent book, Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data, explores the importance of Big Data, cites the ways through which large organizations such as Amazon and NASA utilize this data, and provides a guideline for understanding and leveraging Big Data on a smaller level.

While some major companies are considered “good” or “great” organizations, Simon favors individual or smaller-scale operations. When consulting companies, Simon recommends that they remain small, in order to avoid the roadblocks necessitated upon larger companies by political, social, or cultural influences.

Despite this emphasis on the small, Simon believes there’s a lot of value in observing and following certain strategies of such larger companies. This is especially the case when it comes to studying how companies like Google or Facebook have interacted with Big Data to further elevate their already well-regarded positions in society.

Big Data has become an incredibly valuable resource for large companies; they use it for things such as observing consumer behavior to formulating patterns to climate data. According to IBM, 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone.

Indeed it was two years ago, in 2011, when McKinsey published a report on the nascent role of Big Data, and calculated its anticipated effects on various industries. Not surprisingly, computer and electronic products and information sectors stood out as having already experienced very strong productivity growth from the use of data available at that time; the availability of more data has only allowed these sectors to grow tremendously.

Just as rapidly as large corporations play around with this Big Data, Simon equally encourages individual users and startups to pay attention to the data and use it for their own pursuits. Think about it as a kind of digital social safety net: if you don’t invest in initiatives that analyze and utilize Big Data, then your company is at a much higher risk of falling below the startup poverty level.

You can read an excerpt from his latest book, Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data. And below, watch Simon talk about the lessons that startups can learn from large companies. Here’s the video.

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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