Organizations don't need big data to gain insight into their business. Small data works just fine.In these days of “big data,” where should you start to gain insight about your business and its customers? Start small.

The notion seems to have taken hold that data insight requires all the possible sources of information. This starts with simple sales and expense figures and ratchets up to a multitude of IoT sensors on everything from your inventory to the shelves from which consumers grab products to put into their shopping baskets. You must know the weather, demographics and what people were Tweeting about to understand your business and its market.

Yet, you’d be wrong to think that big data is the only data worth using. First, you should be asking what answers you need to gain business intelligence. From these needs, craft questions that will guide in the selection of appropriate datasets and in how to make queries of this data. You’ll find that you didn’t need petabytes of data from dozens and dozens of databases and sensors.

Small Data Makes it Personal

An advantage of small data is that you can get personal with your customers, according to Mike Selberg of Workivia, which seems obvious. By looking closely at your clients and customers – and your own products – through small data, you can understand them better. This will reveal insight into what makes an impact on your business to make better decisions that lead to better outcomes.

Educators Keep it Small for Improved Learning

McGraw-Hill Education learned how to make use of small data to improve students’ learning, Jessica Davis reported in Information Week. Every student comprehends the lessons and objectives differently. A “one size fits all” approach to teaching can leave some of them struggling. But by focusing on how a student interacts with the limited, predefined objectives in the course curriculum, educators put them on the road to understanding.

The process gathers small data through mini-quizzes in the courses. They deem data about family history, medical records, retail purchases or websites and social media platforms the student has visited unnecessary.

Ad Hoc Reporting with Smaller Datasets Keeps ORs Stocked

Many other practical examples come to mind that work well with these smaller datasets. An Izenda customer‘s application handles hospital surgical centers inventory. With it, staff collect the supplies needed for surgeries and deliver them to operating rooms.

Managers track the inventory as staff scan special bar codes for each item. By coupling this with surgery schedules, they are able to keep enough inventory on hand. They don’t need to know the weather, payroll for the surgical team, utility bills or demographics for the area.

Small data doesn’t require a data science degree or sophisticated analytics engine to process. It doesn’t involve hypotheses, variables or speculation. Small data is about known facts, and it usually stands on its own. Self-service business intelligence using small data allows end users to gain insight without the need for IT or data scientists.

No Data Scientist Required

Tara Kelly of DataInformed says not to underestimate the value of small data. She said it doesn’t require a data science degree or sophisticated analytics engine to process. Small data can usually be counted on to be more accurate. She also pointed out that “small data tends to be easier to apply directly to sales, marketing, and service decisions because companies can influence the questions and actions that generate the data.”

Every company hopes for a huge growth in sales and value. It’s in their business plans. At some point, if those plans become reality, the company will own a massive volume of data. That may need the adoption of big data in business intelligence and analytics. But even then some questions will still be best answered by a much narrower dataset. They’ll just have to wade through the big data to get down into the small data for proper insight.

Izenda’s BI Solution Enables Data Insight

Whether your customers have single or many databases, Izenda’s business intelligence and analytics solution enables them to use that data for insight to make informed business decisions.

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