Researcher IDC reports that the digital universe is doubling in size every two years and will multiply 10-fold between 2013 and 2020 from 4.4 trillion gigabytes to 44 trillion gigabytes.
To give some sense of perspective, the amount of information held would currently fill a stack of iPad Air tablets reaching two thirds of the way to the moon. By 2020, there will be 6.6 stacks.
As a result, Big Data will continue to grow rapidly as the Internet of Things and wearable technology hook more data-collecting sensors into the network. But while everyone is scrambling to make sense of this vast and unstructured data, big is not always best.
It feels like an almost contradictory statement, but the key to understanding business challenges actually lies with Small Data, the information that is used to determine the situation and is derived from Big Data through analysis. Focusing on the minutiae positively impacts performance because it’s this information that prompts activities based on what’s happening now.
To be successful, digital leaders must help employees hone in on the trends that will boost business competitiveness and customer service. That assistance should focus on four key areas: demand, analysis, presentation and refinement.
First, recognise that you can’t measure what you don’t understand, so stop worrying about big data. Digital leaders should spend as much time as possible with their business colleagues to allow the IT team to discover the small details of the business’ broader aims.
Take that awareness of business concerns to the analysis stage. Think about how the organisation collects data and how analytical tools could pull key information from stovepipe systems and databases. Work with key stakeholders and create a competitive landscape analysis in order to match the business intelligence projects being run by the IT team with the long-term objectives of the wider organisation.
Then create a form of presentation, such as a dashboard, that gives intelligence to executives. Present the small details on the dozen-or-so factors, such as global sales, pipeline orders and customer satisfaction that will make a difference to the way they company operates, both now and in the future.
Use small data, in short, to remove the guesswork from business processes. Rather than relying on broad campaigns, marketing professionals should work with IT executives and work out how to pull data from sources across the business. By focusing on small trends and minute details, the business can identify which clients matter and which products they are likely to buy.
Small data can also be used to hone internal processes and facilitate sharing by getting workers across the organisation to collaborate and pool their knowledge. By tapping into cross-departmental experiences, the business can start to solve bigger challenges, such as latent talent gaps and long-standing customer service issues.
Once the IT team has completed its beta approach to small data, it’s important to create a feedback loop – this allows you to work with business colleagues to discover how objectives evolve over time and means the approach can be refined in response.
The amount of data held by the business is growing at such a rate that any project will always remain a work in progress. But by creating a small data strategy, digital leaders can help their business keep one step ahead of its competitors.