Is Little Data the Key to Big Data Success?

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    Top Predictions for Big Data in 2014

    Have you noticed how many articles there are on “Little Data” these days?

    I’m totally guessing, but it seems like for every four or five Big Data pieces I see, I’ll run across one blog post admonishing that little data matters more than Big Data — or at least as much.

    While I still read these pieces, many seemed to be from vendors or consultants who weren’t yet offering a Big Data tool or service. So, they wanted to talk about what they did offer: Traditional data management and analytics solutions. I don’t fault them. After all, regular data is still just as much a pain point as it has always been for many organizations.

    Of course, it makes sense that becoming proficient at little data management, including data quality and governance, would put you in a better position when it comes to implementing Big Data. But recent research suggests it’s more than common sense — there actually seems to be a cause-and-effect relationship between how you handle little data and how well and quickly you find success with Big Data.

    In a recent EBN Online column, supply chain consultant Frank Cavallaro makes the case for improving your “little data” capabilities before moving on Big Data. As evidence, Cavallaro points to a Harvard Business School study on generating business value from data. It involved seven case studies and executive interviews at 51 companies.

    The study found that there aren’t a lot of companies that get this right, even with little data. The exemptions are a more profitable group of companies with a culture of “evidence-based decision making.” The study’s executive summary ties this back to Big Data investments:

    “The biggest reason that investments in big data fail to pay off, though, is that most companies don’t do a good job with the information they already have. They don’t know how to manage it, analyze it in ways that enhance their understanding, and then make changes in response to new insights. … Until a company learns how to use data and analysis to support its operating decisions, it will not be in a position to benefit from big data.”

    In particular, Cavallaro points out companies that implement master data management are better positioned to start Big Data than others.

    So little data is a sort of harbinger for Big Data success. It may not seem like shocking news, but Cavallaro warns many organizations are ignoring it as they charge ahead with Big Data. That’s not smart.

    It’s worth noting, too, that these kind of traditional data and legacy investments can actually help speed the path to Big Data success.

    If you’re confident about how well you’re doing little data, then by all means, move on. In fact, you might want to check out this Data Quality Pro interview with InfoTrellis VP of Products, Dave Borean. He discusses some of the unique data quality parameters you’ll need to consider as you tap into Big Data.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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