Big data is posted online approximately 13 times a minute according to the social analytics tool Atlas from Infegy, meaning that by the time you finish this article, there will likely be nearly 60 new posts singing the praises of it. This isn’t one of those posts.
That isn’t to say Big Data isn’t a positive force in reshaping how business is conducted, crafting the consumer experience, and the brand’s engagement with their customers. It’s just that too much data without the right constructs and purpose can actually lead a person further away from their desired goal. Report after report confirms that, instead of feeling empowered, executives feel confused and overwhelmed by the amount of data available to them now and this often leads to Big Data paralysis.
There is power in narrowing data, making it smaller if you will, to get at what’s most important to an executive. Three questions often guide my conversations with our clients when data comes up.
A CPG company interested in consumer trends to insert themselves into a real-time marketing opportunity, say around a celebrity seen using their product, is an entirely different data structure than a financial services company interested in trends among small businesses. Understanding the business and what influences market conditions, customer buying behavior and competitors’ movements can help quickly narrow a sea of data into the most relevant points.
The business goals and KPIs often vary from campaign to campaign, much less between clients with often significantly different marketplace challenges and opportunities. Asking this question is a critical step to aligning all responsible parties on what matters most to the business and often sparks the most discussion as leadership debates whether it’s an awareness play or conversion opportunity.
If reaching consensus on business outcomes spurs the most debate, this one is often the lengthiest discussion given the number of business units that can be impacted. Customer care, merchandising, marketing and other units all have ongoing consumer touch points that are fueled by data. Making data actionable, whether to facilitate a return or quickly deploy an email, is a mindset as much as a mandate.
Having an open conversation guided by these three questions is an important first step in narrowing down big data into a more useful small data within your organization. Involving leadership and other teams in this conversation also is a good way to solidify support for data initiatives as the real value of a data-informed organization becomes apparent beyond the balance sheet.
This purpose-driven approach to data certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s opened up new and more productive uses to focusing in on the small data that is actionable, insightful and relevant.