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Trouble In Big Data Paradise? Could ‘Small Data’ Be the Answer?

Publication date: 2 November 2021

It is a well-known fact that – without data, companies would struggle to remain competitive. And, if you ask company owners if their company is data-driven, the majority will say it is. 

However, many of them fail to realize that, even though their companies collect immense amounts of data, they probably struggle to derive genuine worth from it.

To be more precise, only 39.3% of companies manage data as an asset; only 24.4% have forged a data culture within their firms; only 24.0% have created a data-driven organization, according to NewVantage Partners 2021 Big Data and AI Executive Survey

What does this mean? Well, even though many businesses have initiated moves towards a data-driven culture in the workplace, only a few of them have been successful.

Big Data, Big Trouble? 

So, how did we get here? In a nutshell, companies started gathering an immense amount of data. But then, if they get overwhelmed by data, it becomes useless. 

And even though companies have the tools and systems that can tackle vast amounts of data and make it more manageable, finding out the true meaning of data that can drive actionable results still remains challenging.

As a result, nowadays, companies are starting to move away from collecting Big Data. 

Instead, they tend to favor Small Data as it is easier to get a handle on.

man sitting facing pc inside room
Photo by David McEachan on

What Is Small Data?

In simple terms, it is data that is “small” or simple enough for human comprehension. On the other hand, Big Data is all about using machines to understand the data.

The concept of Small Data is not new. In 2016, Martin Lindstrom published a book called Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends, which explains how Big Data is taking a toll on innovation and creativity. 

That same year, Lindstrom was interviewed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Knowledge@Wharton journal. During the interview, Lindstrom tried to point out how cold knowledge and plain numbers, taken from numerous different data points, are no substitute for a creative spark. In other words, he tried to explain that humans are hardwired to find meaning behind all the collected numbers and data.

As Visual Matters explains, “By blindly pursuing Big Data initiatives, we run the risk of sacrificing this facet of our humanity; something which could arrest our forward motion and sense of innovation.”

So, what is the right thing to do? Focus only on Small Data and potentially miss out on something important that is hidden within Big Data? Or, maybe try to find an approach that combines both types of data?

The Grassroots Approach

In 2017, Murray Chick recommended a unique approach to handling data – a grassroots approach.

The grassroots approach to data includes starting small and building up gradually. Companies would have to assess what insight objectives they need to accomplish before the necessary understanding is achieved and stop there for every project they tackle. Larger, more complex projects will require more data; smaller projects will require less.

The key to success with the grassroots approach is to understand how much data needs to be applied. Also, it is important not to confuse the process by piling data fragments upon data fragments.

Dealing with data, big or small, can always be challenging. If you’re not sure what to focus on and how to collect, analyze, and handle data, HICO-Group can help you out.

What do we do? All things data!

At HICO-Group, we offer a holistic approach to customer solutions for business intelligence. We are masters in working with KPIs. From KPI identification and planning to building future-proof data solutions, we implement state-of-the-art BI concepts customized for your company’s needs and market. 

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