Big Data is the problem, not the solution


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I hate the term Big Data. Everytime I hear it or read it, I cringe.

Its a reminder of my early days in the content management industry where much of the focus was on the massive volumes of content that already existed and were being generated each day by people and organizations. The message was one of panic, “You have to get this under control.”

What was not heard in that voice for massive spending on storage and systems was more pragmatic advice. Insight that said of that mass of content on corporations, only 10% was really being used (or would ever be used). Now some of this changed with compliance regulations about storage, but if people had focused on content value rather than content volume, we might be in a different place today.

Well, now there is more and more content and more and more data, and with it comes the term I love to hate. Big Data is a problem. Its like being lost in a forest, overwhelmed by information and not sure what it is telling you.

I wish the focus was not on Big Data—the problem—but on Deep Insight- the solution. If you haven’t figured out how you are going to synthesize big data, than there is really little to no value in collecting it (unless you think you’ll figure it out soon).

People are already overwhelmed with information. In many cases, we see examples of dashboards, that have 8 or 10 different windows—almost like information cockpits. Unfortunately, the user’s aren’t pilots, who do this every day. Its knowledge workers who have many other duties. It violates my ideas on designing user experiences. It overwhelms rather than simplifies.

We keep losing sight of a problem that has been acknowledged for years, but is getting worse. Information overload. Even in the world of customer experience, information overload diminishes customer power. Just as we can add value by guiding customers, we need to think the same about big data.

For big data to matter, we have to focus on the insight it will provide and how we will use that insight. If that happens, then Big Data is a good thing.

If not, then its another arms race to collect masses of information that provide no value beyond losing focus on what matters and confusing people. Hopefully, those are the discussions you are having about Big Data, but at the surface—where most people spend their limited time—the Big Data hype is too focused on the problem and not enough on the solution.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Hank Barnes
Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies--particularly around marketing, positioning, and customer experience--for technology providers. Hank has more than 25 years of high-technology sales and marketing experience in both field and corporate roles, both as an individual contributor and the marketing leader for several startups. He is a long-time proponent of customer-centric marketing and the use of customer experience as a key differentiator for business success. His posts here include content from his days with Adobe, SAP, and now Gartner


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