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Big Data Promises Need Small Data Foundations

Posted on: 17-05-2016 17:37:291070


As featured in the Business-Reporter supplement for the Sunday Telegraph.

The hype behind big data is relentless. I can’t remember the last time I ventured online without coming across some form of communication selling its benefits and the way it will disrupt the world of business. Small data, on the other hand, gets little mention; drowned out by the compelling promises made by its younger brother.

So I’d like to stand up for the little guy and talk to you about small data. Because small data - the lifeblood of your business – needs an evangelist too.

The problem with the big data promise is that it is based on an assumption; a big one. It assumes that the organization using it already has the small data foundations already in place to capitalize on any newly captured insights. This is often not the case.

As an example, consider the promise of strategy. Strategy is supposed to differentiate companies, creating new blue oceans of growth, yet often senior executives lay out new, exciting business plans without arming their employees with the plans, capabilities and insights required to execute their vision. They essentially expect to achieve significantly better results with the same intelligence and resources they have always had.

Strategy therefore needs to be followed up with disciplined and aligned execution; based on a clear understanding of business goals, their required contribution and the reason for current results. The devil lies in the detail – in the small data that flows throughout your organization.

Understanding this detail heightens operational control and improves an organization’s ability to execute change. As Sean Culey, a business transformation expert we've worked closely with in the past, explains; “You cannot control what you do not understand and you cannot sustainably improve what you are unable to control.”

There’s now a plethora of new analytics tools available that aim to help organizations tackle this operational challenge head on; the most advanced of which is self-service prescriptive analytics. To many, prescriptive analytics is about understanding long term strategic trends; its immediate value is often overlooked. The timely actionable insights contained within these tools can improve operational control; helping ensure supply meets demand, inventory levels are optimized and risks controlled.

The self-service aspect is essential as it enables organizations to protect one of their most precious commodities – time. The prescriptive capability moves users beyond hindsight reporting to a place where they can sense events and take actions that control the future response. Prescriptive tools understand the relationship between cause and action - they don’t just report on past events or predict what might happen, but instead provide actionable intelligence that can be used to directly impact future performance.

As big data matures, organizations will soon find themselves with a myriad of new data sources they’ll be able to mine for insights. It will therefore become increasingly important for organizations to understand their existing data to ensure these future insights can be acted on effectively. While this data may be less exciting and smaller in volume than its big data brother, it is not necessarily smaller in terms of impact. The insights you need may be closer than you think.

Fred Hermans
Every Angle, CEO

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