Money & Business

Learning to Love Big Data, A Little Bit At a Time

By / Jan 10, 2013 (iStockPhoto/Thinkstock)

Every organization has data, sometimes mountains of it. But if you try to tackle it all at once, you could be left reeling from information overload.

If you’ve determined big data is right for your organization, one way to distill any apprehension around it is to start small, to become familiar with the idea of “little data.”

As it is the season for making New Year’s resolutions, how many associations have resolved to make big data a larger part of their strategic plan this year?

From the predictions that big data will drive $34 billion in IT spending in 2013 to the potential rise of the Chief Data Officer, big data is projected to be an influential player in business this year.

But the idea of analyzing large collections of information sparks fear into the hearts of many, including association executives. Wes Trochlil, president of Effective Database Management, identified several worries, including fear of analyzing data incorrectly, fear of discovering new truths about your organization that contradict conventional wisdom, and fear of change.

Even if you uncover new truths that necessitate change within your organization, Trochlil noted, it’s worth the discovery because it can lead you down a more productive path. “Overcoming the initial fears around the process is the first step in reaping the benefits that business intelligence has to offer,” Trochlil said.

If you’ve determined big data is right for your organization, one way to distill any apprehension around it is to start small, to become familiar with the idea of “little data.”

A recent article in the Washington Post explores the advantages of diving into big data on a smaller scale, especially for small to mid-side organizations.

Those “who focus their efforts and dive deep into a few business-critical sets of data such as sales in a specific sector, or performance metrics during peak vs. low seasons, will see quicker and better results than companies that try to take on too much,” said Santiago Becerra, cofounder of Roambi—a mobile business intelligence developer.

In a Harvard Business Review blog, Bill Franks suggests identifying a few simple things to measure and “capturing” that data over a certain amount of time.

For example, when analyzing web traffic analytics, measure the daily visits to your site, as well as new visitors and returning visitors, over a month’s time. It’s easier to manage, and once you see tangible results, you can move on to more in-depth measurements such as engagement or analyzing mobile traffic.

Small-scale analytics can help run a business more efficiently, a fact catching on among many nonprofits. Often faced with smaller budgets and limited resources, nonprofit organizations need the biggest bang for their buck.

“We want to make sure that the limited dollars that there are really focus on what’s working,” Nancy Roob, president and CEO of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, which invests in nonprofits dedicated to assisting low-income youth, told Time magazine. So the foundation is awarding grants to organizations using data measurement to attain their stated goals.

How will you use data, big or little, to increase productivity this year?

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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