I have to admit that I am starting to get there, and technically I get paid for helping clients make sense of their big data so I really need to stay engaged in it. What I have seen is a feeling of being overwhelmed by too much data, by the massive project planning and data collection involved in gathering it all together and making it meaningful. Big data has become a buzzword that leaders know they have to get behind but aren’t truly certain about how to do it effectively.

Ultimately it’s all about small data; the idea that “less is more” and that simple, visual, bite-sized messaging are the key to success. So the question arises; how do you bring together the overwhelming amount of data we have access to and make it into consumable bites?


  1. Start small and get big: I help companies to drill into their data, sometimes with the goal of being able to define which data to invest in further. Before we begin, they often tell me “We don’t have a lot of data” or “We are missing a lot of data”. More often than not, they are surprised in the insights uncovered in the findings from the data they already had. Starting with the data you have before looking for more is a good start.
  2. Define what you really need to know: It’s easy with any data project to get lost in the ‘nice to have’ and ‘wouldn’t that be great to know’. The first step before pulling consolidating data and defining the outputs is to understand the key business decisions that will be decided upon based on the information. This should be done by function and must align back to the overall corporate objectives.
  3. Align well and align early: Allen Bonde, from Forrester, summarized it well when he said: “big data is about machines and small data is about people”. Often times it is an IT team that leads the tools and dissemination methods for big data. The goals of the project become data linkage and user interface. On the other side, the users of small data will likely be the sales, marketing, and operation teams. The objective is this group is simplicity, usability, and action taking. The early alignment of these teams will be essential to success.

I think you will probably agree that big data isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, we would expect that the pressure to mine data and understand our customers better and streamline our operations is likely to increase. So, start small, ensure your focus is razor sharp and align both users and developers up front for the best chance of success.

If you are struggling to turn Big Data into Small Data, talk to us. We can help.

Christi Scarrow Partner
Lighthouse NINE Group
One Eva Road, Suite 209 | Etobicoke, ON M9C 4Z5
Office: 416-607-5923
Christi Scarrow on LinkedIn

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