Connecting the Dots Between Big and Small Data

In Big Data by Daniel NewmanLeave a Comment

connecting-the-dots-between-big-and-small-dataBig data is driving a great deal of change in the modern business world. While big data provides a broad focus, small data offers more detail. For many companies, big data is hard to crack in terms of deriving insight, and small data is essentially useless without the proper context. Connecting small data to big data trends is vital to make sense of both. The ultimate goal? Generate actionable, targeted insights from those connections.

Big Data Shows Patterns, Small Data Helps You Understand Them

Companies are pouring vast amounts of resources into big data and the tools used to collect it. However, many have yet to see a tangible payoff from these investments. That’s because big data shows you overall trends and patterns. It only offers a view of the landscape, whereas small data shows you the best places to grow on that landscape. To extract the truly valuable bits from your company’s data, you need reliable and robust analytic capabilities to determine what small data is most important. This information will vary from business to business based on location, industry, target consumers, and company culture.

Use the Insights You Gain from Big Data

Big data is cumbersome, and it’s difficult to discern what’s useful and what isn’t. Sometimes the most useful, pertinent data is hidden at first. Small data analytics add clarity to the patterns within big data. Your analytics teams must be able to connect small data to the big picture to make it actionable. But sometimes, separating the truly valuable metrics from the fluff is a challenge.

Data itself is not inherently useful; the value of data rests in the insights gained from it. This requires a deep understanding of the connections, context, and reasoning for those connections. Essentially, big data provides the “what,” and small data answers the question of “why.” Many methods exist for extracting valuable data from the vast pools of big data that companies are gathering. Computer programs, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytical tools will all make a difference in how business leaders leverage data to drive their companies into the future.

Don’t Rely Solely on Computer Analysis/Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence presents an unprecedented opportunity for data analysts to quickly find and extract the valuable data points. Google Analytics allow you to see important trends in your data, but you must never discount the value of human analysis. AI and computers may be able to find the patterns, but human insight distinguishes how those patterns matter to an organization.

Analytic tools like those from Google can also detect anomalies in your data. Again, having access to this information is important, but what you do with it is far more critical to your business. It takes a human eye to determine where the pain points lie, and how to use the data as a cost-effective decision-making tool.

This means finding a balance between small data and big data. Gathering very specific metrics over time—and on an individual basis—isn’t a very cost-effective means of gaining insight. The value of big data also increases with volume. Collect as much data as possible, then extract the smaller patterns that matter most to your company.

Create Actionable Insights

To sum things up, how big data is used will vary from business to business. The most valuable pieces of small data will highlight the best ways to leverage your data as a decision-making tool. This is going to require a robust data-collection system, reliable analytic software, and experienced professionals who understand the nuances of your organization. Finally, the leaders of your company must know how to use the insights gained to the benefit of your organization.

The importance of data won’t diminish anytime soon—especially in the face of the digital transformation encompassing virtually every modern business. Data is one of the most valuable commodities in today’s world, and collecting as much pertinent data for your company is absolutely critical. However, what is far, far more important than data collection is what you do with it. Big data offers a broad view of all the possibilities in front of your organization. But small data tells you exactly how to seize them.

This post was brought to you by IBM Global Technology Services. For more content like this, visit Point B and Beyond.

Photo Credit: Graphik Boutique Flickr via Compfight cc

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.

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