What about the small data?

Published on the 19/01/2016 | Written by David Oakley


It’s easy to argue that big data is only getting bigger – yet, while collecting and analysing big data will remain a priority 2016, David Oakley believes organisations should also be looking more closely at small data…

For those unfamiliar with the concept, small data is generated by everyday operations. It provides managers with insights into what projects consume the majority of time and effort, and where productivity levels can be improved. To compare it to big data would be liking comparing a walk along the ocean to climbing Mt. Everest. Everest, like big data, is a major challenge that few have truly conquered. However, they both garner the lion’s share of attention for their stature and mystique. A walk along the ocean can be enjoyed by most everyone and while it doesn’t hold the prestige of Everest, it can be just as rewarding.

In much the same way, small data can have an impact just as profound as big data, but without all of the headaches.

One of the main roadblocks plaguing big data today is the cost and scarcity of skilled big data professionals. In fact, a recent report from the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia showed that supply-side respondents with big data skills have a median salary of $200,000. It would be logical to think that professionals are flocking to the field in search of high salaries but the supply is still significantly lagging behind demand.

By contrast, when leveraged correctly with the right tools, insights from small data can be digested and acted on by managers and business leaders throughout the organisation.

The old adage, “You can’t improve what you can’t measure,” rings true with small data. While there are vast improvements to be made, organisations first have to collect the right data. The key is to capture the work in a record-keeping system with performance analytics to see what’s going on, and determine what needs to be done. For instance, how quickly does IT or the facilities team respond to incidents? What type of work does Human Resources focus its team on? Is that what they should be doing? If they want to change it then is it getting better or worse over time? What are the trends in the service that a business unit provides?

Transparency empowers managers to do their jobs. IT can provide the technologies and services to make this data collection happen – not just in IT, but in all other service-oriented departments.

With the insight of small data, IT can lead the creation and rollout of automated system or online portals for employees to do everything from submit IT service desk requests to select healthcare benefits. These systems not only streamline those processes but can capture the valuable small data needed to pave the way for strategic gains in productivity. With the maturation of cloud computing services and applications – be they public, private or a hybrid model – IT teams can now focus on these strategic tasks and spend less time on infrastructure concerns they have traditionally had to manage.

As those changes continue, IT teams can find themselves acting as chief drivers of productivity to HR, finance, legal and more. Small data will be at the heart of this productivity engine, providing actionable insight that can lead to immediate gains that have a significant impact on the bottom line.

This IT shift will see a spike in evolution over the coming year and CIOs that can lead the charge in this effort will find themselves proving their value in a variety of new ways.

David OakleyABOUT DAVID OAKLEY//

David Oakley, is ANZ MD at ServiceNow.

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