UTF-8 Sean 1 2018

Focus on ‘small’ data first

By Sean Young, Senior Client Partner at Decision Inc.

While Big Data is a vital component within digital business environments today, decision-makers should not neglect the ‘small’ data that holds the big insights inside an organisation. You will find it is often the 20 percent ‘smaller’, less significant day-to-day operational data that can have the most immediate and tangible impact on the bottom line; delivering as much as 80 percent of the informational value.

As we know by now, Big Data is not solely about quantity, but rather encompasses the four V’s – Volume, Variety, Velocity, and Veracity. By themselves, these elements can pose significant challenges for organisations looking to extract value from data. But first, one needs to identify for whom Big Data really matters and at which points should the business really be concerned with it?

It is really a case of Risk Vs. Reward. What level of effort and investment is required to extract what level of value, and for what purpose? All these are topped by the question ‘so what?’ This is a critical departure point in any discussion.

It is not about data, systems, servers, storage, cloud, or any other technology. Instead, it is about the business. What do I need to know to make better decisions, faster, and what will the impact of those decisions be? Will it help the organisation grow faster, run better, and improve what it does?

Every organisation has data. However, the company needs to really understand what this information is saying about the business for it to act accordingly. This is critical to making better decisions, finding inefficiencies, saving money, and identifying opportunities for growth. After all, what good is information and insight without action?

Understanding ‘small’ data

Many businesses require assistance with the ‘small’ data that is already at their disposal. This includes anything from sales, stock, procurement, and financials, to human resource information to name just a few.

The primary requirement in this regard is getting the basics of business right by deriving the maximum value from existing data before Big Data should even be considered, or worse, explored in parallel.

Unfortunately, too many companies still use spreadsheets or static reports to analyse and understand their business and yet are entertaining Data Lake, Advanced, and Predictive Analytics-type discussions and concepts.

This is akin to a person getting up from their desk, walking to their car, and driving to a library to look up the answer to a single, one-dimensional question. Of course, the alternative is to simply search online in real-time to obtain the answer instantly, along with suggestions for alternate questions that might provide more insights or answers to questions a person did not even consider. Even worse, this process is repeated with every new permutation of a question.

Admittedly, it is very easy to get caught up in the technology jargon of today. Rather, decision-makers must focus their energy on deriving the maximum business value out of the ‘small’ data that already exists within their organisation, along with external data that is readily available and easily accessible.

Use what you have now and turn it into real value. It is about empowering employees to make better, faster, and more informed decisions on all operational levels. Now is the time to take the guesswork out of analysis and start getting the right answers, quickly.