Small Data is the Last Mile of Big Data

The era of big data, as Christina Donnelly and Geoff Simmons blogged, “threatens to create a deep divide between the have-datas and the have-no-datas.” This appears to be creating a data arms race of sorts with organizations of all sizes racing to stockpile as much data as they can, as if somehow the organization with the biggest data wins.

However, “more data doesn’t always create more insight,” Adrian Reed blogged. “There is nothing inherently wrong with an increased focus on data. The danger comes when an organization floods itself with data without considering the outcomes and decisions that are desired.” As the data an organization collects, and reports on, multiplies, Reed explained, multiple dimensions and a high volume of variables are added, which can complicate, confuse, and even delay the decision-making process. This is why Reed recommends “the focus should be on generating insight and actionable data, not just more data or more reports.”

I have previously blogged about how bridging the divide between unstructured and structured data is one of the biggest challenges for governing big data. But regardless of the size and structure of the data that your organization is working with, there is another bridge that must be crossed before your organization’s data completes its journey.

According to a recent Information Age article by Ben Rossi, “big data is useful only if we (those of us who aren’t data scientists) can do something with it in our everyday jobs, which is where small data enters the picture. What’s small data? On one hand it’s a design philosophy, inspired by consumer apps and services that deliver useful data, content and insights to users on the go. On the other, it’s the technology, processes, and use cases for turning big data into alerts, apps, and dashboards (the last mile) for business users within corporate environments. It’s about the end-user, as the last mile of big data is where the value is created, opinions are formed, insights are shared, and actions are made.”


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.


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