In a Big Data World, is Small Data The Answer?

big data small data

July 24, 2019


2 minutes

More data doesn’t always mean better results. It’s time for enterprises to focus on small data. 

It’s never been easier or more cost-efficient to generate massive volumes of data, and strategic organizations have been understandably eager to jump on the big data bandwagon. But when it comes to making data actionable, it isn’t necessarily true that bigger is better. In fact, a more deliberate, “small” data approach — plus the right technology stack — is the real key to success.


The Problems with Big Data

Big data is booming. Globally, the numbers are staggering — for instance, the global Internet of Things could reach some 20.4 billion devices by 2020, meaning that sensors are collecting an unprecedented amount of data on an unprecedented number of variables. Access to this information has led to some incredible transformations for organizations across industries, from logistics and transportation to security and smart cities.

And yet, all that collected data is not necessarily usable. All too often, data ends up sitting in storage untouched or only used as historical data long after the immediate insights would have been actionable. And it’s just as worrisome if big data is used indiscriminately. For instance, if a data flow is set up for automatic alerts, too much data can produce too many signals — which can quickly lead to alert fatigue. When critical alerts become lost in a sea of constant pings, data begins to do more harm than good.

But how can companies differentiate noise from real insights? How are users supposed to prioritize the data that matters? This is where small data comes in.


A Small Solution With Big Impact

In order to answer these questions, companies need to think about data differently. It’s too simple to say you need more data. What you actually need is the right data — in other words, small data.

Tech leader Allen Bonde offers a helpful definition of small data, explaining that it’s better to design data generation and delivery in a purposeful way that will allow for just-in-time, “meaningful insights.” In his words, data delivery should be “accessible, understandable, and actionable.”

For many strategic teams, this is an appealing idea — but one that’s often difficult to implement, in the context of legacy IT infrastructure and nascent IoT technologies. As an enterprise in today’s data-rich environment, IT leaders understand how overwhelming managing huge amounts of data can be. The answer is to isolate the most relevant information to your specific situation — and fast.

In fact, the right software tools can make this targeted approach possible. This isn’t a futuristic vision — the tech tools you need to start working with small data already exist. Curious what this approach might look like for your organization? Download our white paper, In a Big Data World, is Small Data the Answer?


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