Should you start small with big data

Big data is big, but it may also have a few hurdles to jump even with the hype it gets. While everyone is jumping on the big data bandwagon these days, few are considering the problems that come with it. Big data is only useful if you can find something in it that can enhance your business some benefit in marketing, finance, sales, or other business objectives.

For this reason, Allen Bonde, VP of product marketing and innovation, Actuate, recommends that you start small with big Data in his article in Computer Weekly (http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/Data-Matters/2014/08/start-small-with-big-data.html).

He calls the approach ‘Small Data’, and he defines it as:

So what is 'Small' Data? At its simplest, it's the alerts or answers gleaned from Big Data that are most meaningful to the broadest set of users. Furthermore, as I've defined it before, Small Data involves packaging insights visually so they are accessible, understandable, and actionable for everyday tasks.

Simply, small data means paying closer attention to content that we have already, and analyzing it as much as we can before we move on. This should lead to immediate insights into specific business needs in a friendly, sharable format.

The concept is simple enough that it is spreading like wildfire among the IT community. Many are considering the movement because:

Big Data is tricky, and doing it right may take longer than you can wait. You also need massive amounts of data which most businesses have yet to amass. Small data provide quicker insights that let you personalize your offers to customers.

Small data is the new IT buzzword. It is not a mainstream concept yet, but it definitely growing in popularity in the IT community. Even software vendors such as Adobe, IBM, SAP, and Actuate are promoting the concept in every IT industry forum and blog. It also democratizes the way apps are constructed making it easier to cross-reference your insights against other sets of small data.

We all already have small data in our businesses. Small data analysis uses the same datasets as big data, which is all around us. The amount of personalized data sets available to you is almost uncountable. Small data just says to concentrate on the sets that directly affect your business and ignore the rest. For instance, you can create a complete picture of your customers by analyzing insights from social channels with Web analytics and transactional data.

Small data focuses on the user and not IT techies like big data. We still need a platform that makes analyzing it easy, scalable and visually appealing for non-techies, but, in principle, you do not need a degree in information technology to understand small data.

Bonde reports that these reasons are why any business with a focus on their customers should be using small data instead of the big stuff. It lets you bypass some of big data’s traps to deliver useful, interactive data-driven apps.

While we agree that small data has potential, we have to warn that small data is just a subset of big data and comes with all the same trip wires. Plus, you do not always have control over the amount of data you have. We recommend that you start with the data you already have and expand your data sets as you go. We will also help you determine if your IT infrastructure is ready for the data processing regardless if it is small or big.

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