At the beginning of the year it looked like 2014 was shaping up to be a year when Small Data moved out of the shadows and into the mainstream (or maybe even THE Year of Small Data as I predicted in this op-ed for ZDNet). Judging by the volume of articles, social chatter, and casual conversation I’ve had at numerous industry events, Small Data has arrived. But it still means different things to different people. And that’s cool, since there’s a lot we’ve learned over the past couple years about why it’s important – not only as an alternative to Big Data – but also as a design philosophy and movement that shifts the conversation from processing power…to people!
So if you’re new to the topic, or just curious how Small Data has grown up, I’ve collected my “Top 10” articles for sampling the early concepts as well as the latest thinking. There are many more pieces I’ve left off, but this might serve as a core reading list. And yes, I’ve included just 2 of my own articles, but if you like them you can find many more on this blog or on the Actuate buzz page.
The Early Days – Foundations
Forget Big Data, Small Data is the Real Revolution – Rufus Pollock’s (@rufuspollock) original post on the power of Small Data, collaboration and “decentralized data wrangling” from April 2013. Consistently one of the top 5 most cited pieces on the topic, it’s a great companion to my Forbes piece below.
These Smart, Social Apps Bring Big Data Down to Size – my piece with Mark Fidelman (@markfidelman) from October 2012 that introduced the pillars of small data design: make it simple, be smart, think mobile (be responsive) and predicted a new wave of user-centric business intelligence.
What happens when each patient becomes their own “universe” of unique medical data? – Prof. Deborah Estrin (of @cornell_tech) talk at TEDMed 2013 has key ideas around managing our own personal Small Data. Especially relevant to not only privacy discussions but also those pondering the next wave of wearables and fitness tracking devices.
Data-driven Marketing – 3 Perspectives
Small Data Can Help Businesses Be More Human – great post on the need for “human scale” in marketing by Brand Networks CEO Jamie Tedford (@jamietedford).
What the “Small Data” Revolution Means for Marketers – it’s all about delivering more targeted, more personalized and all-around more intelligent marketing campaigns says CommandIQ (@CommandIQ) CEO Noah Jessop. Right on!
What’s The Big Deal About ‘Small Data’? – recent roundup of perspectives on the marketing front (yup, including my own) by my friends at CMO.com.
Is Small the New Big? – Mainstream Thinking and New Voices
Focus on data value, not its ‘bigness’ – one of my recent op-eds on data value, decentralization and the new CRM. Good overview piece if you want to get a high level perspective and stir up thinking within your own organization.
In Praise of ‘Small Data’: How Targeted Analytics — Not ‘Big Data’ — Are Transforming Education Today – new post by Brian Kibby (@BrianKibby), President of McGraw-Hill’s Higher Education Group.
Your Sushi May Be Getting Smarter – new piece in The Atlantic by Tech Editor Adrienne LaFrance (@AdrienneLaF) on “smart objects,” food safety and the power of Small Data (and IoT).
How To Create Incredible Customer Service Through The ‘Small Data’ Advantage – new piece by customer service speaker and author Micah Solomon (@micahsolomon). While a lot of my focus to-date has been on marketing use cases, I think there are some great ones in customer service/loyalty as well as this post suggests.
What articles did I miss? What would you add if I made it a “top 20” list instead?
Big data has never been bigger. On the heals of a new study (reported here) that shows that investors have pumped $3.6 billion into big data startups this year, and Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle which shows big data quickly approaching the top of the hype “cliff” (along with Consumer 3D Printing and Gamification), one is tempted to see more of the same in 2014. Yet all the steam coming out of the big data hype machine seems to be obscuring our view of the big picture: in many cases big data is overkill. And in most cases big data is useful only if we can do something with it in our everyday jobs.
Which is why against the backdrop of more hype (and more confusion) about the real role for big data, the case for thinking small looks more and more attractive. In fact, I recently penned an opinion piece for ZDNet in Paul Greenberg’s excellent column on Social CRM on 10 Reasons 2014 will be the Year of Small Data. You can read the full piece here, and here’s the Cliffs Notes version of the first 5 reasons:
- Big data is hard. Doing it at scale takes time, especially when the tech guys own it (I used to be a data scientist, so I can say this!).
- Small data is all around us. Social and mobile signals can help us understand customer needs – today.
- Small data powers the new CRM. Small data is central to the rich profiles essential to targeting offers and experiences.
- ROI is the thing. To realize the full value of data-driven apps they must be accessible, understandable, and actionable for everyday work (remember our definition).
- Data-driven marketing is the next wave. As more consumers want to access, and consume and even wear useful data, there’s an unprecedented opportunity for savvy marketers and platform providers like Adobe, HubSpot, and Salesforce, along with data specialists and tool providers like Actuate, Localytics, TrueLens, and Visible to power the next wave of apps, experiences and devices.
What do you think? Are you finalizing your big and small data strategy for 2014? If you’d like DCG’s perspectives as you formulate your plans I’ll be hosting a special Webinar on Dec 12 at 1:00pm ET to share our outlook and 2014 research agenda. Hope to see you there!
UPDATE: missed my Webinar? You can view the replay by clicking here.
One of the best parts of my research over the past several months as I worked on DCG’s “Bringing the Power of Big Data to the Masses” study (report now available here) has been getting to sample both current viewpoints as well as some of the literature and developments from the past 20+ years on the topic. In fact, big data and today’s analytical tools are very much a product of the “generations” of data and data processing that came before them.
Here’s a cool illustration we created for the report that highlights some of the key developments, deals, and publications related to big data, analytics, and small data since the invention of the web in 1989. We had to leave out a number (many) of potential items, so I’d love to hear what milestones would you have included – enjoy!
With a flurry of new articles on small data in various publications recently – including Wired, Technorati, and AllThingsD – there’s a growing number of voices contributing to the small data movement (a great thing!). But with these new perspectives, I feel like it’s a good time to re-ground the conversation in an actual definition of what we are talking about when we refer to “small data” – or at least what I’m talking about!
So in this post I wanted to share my first cut at a proper definition. Yes, I’ve framed the pillars for small data in many other places, going back to my first guest piece in Forbes on the topic a year ago (!), and more recently I’ve embraced the idea of describing small data as “the last mile of big data.” But these were descriptions or principles vs. definitions for the most part.
So, after spending the last couple month working on Digital Clarity Group‘s new multi-client study on “Bringing the Power of Big Data to the Masses” (sponsored by my friends at Adobe, Actuate, HubSpot, and Visible), seeing how marketers are looking to make analytics more accessible and actionable – and creating some new starter use cases, an interesting thing happened: a definition emerged!
In fact, while our final report is still a week or so away from being available from DCG and our sponsors, I shared the definition with our audience at the Digital Pulse Summit this past week during my panel on small data, and given the response, I wanted to provide it here as well.
A New Definition for Small Data
Small data connects people with timely, meaningful insights (derived from big data and/or “local” sources), organized and packaged – often visually – to be accessible, understandable, and actionable for everyday tasks.
Note, as we describe in our report, this definition applies to the data we have, as well as the end-user apps and analyst workbenches for turning big data set into actionable small data. The key “action” words here are connect, organize, and package, and the “value” (the 4th V of big data) is rooted in making insights available to all (accessible), easy to apply (understandable), and focused on the task at hand (actionable).
In fact, I hope it’s as much a mission statement, as it is a definition. What do you think? Did we nail it?
As I prepared my presentation on small data for the recent DCG Insights day in New York, I did a quick review of some of the latest coverage of the topic, and discovered a number of new articles worth checking out. This list just scratches the surface, so I’ll add to it in subsequent posts, but wanted to share this first batch as a reading list for those interested in the topic. Enjoy!
5. Inc.com – Why Small Data May Be Bigger Than Big Data – in this piece which came out in April, x-McKinsey consultant and loyalty expert Victor Ho argues that small data is the key to solving the “data divide” for local businesses.
4. ITworld – Big Data Benefits with Small Data – tech journalist Brian Proffitt questions the necessity of big data for non government agencies or businesses that don’t have giga-scale ecommerce sites, and references the notion of personal data stores – a distinct small data use case. His closing point is a good one:
“Thanks to big data, many businesses recognize the value of data analysis. But there may be several new paths that will open up to help them achive the benefits of data decision making.”
3. MediaPost – Does Big Data Require a Big Rethink? – in this commentary Michael Hemsey of Kobie Marketing urges brands to focus on “the little details,” calls out his recommendations for thinking small when it comes to data assets, and talks about the age of mini-measurement – which is a cool way to put it!
“I don’t want to have a relationship with a marketing department. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to engage in conversation with you. I feel no loyalty towards you. When I say I like you I’m not entirely sincere.
And yet I chose to share an enormous amount of my life with you. The detail I’m able and happy to share has grown big. Really, really big. But understand this: my reason for sharing this data is entirely motivated by self-interest. You see, I know as much about you as you do about me. I know how valuable my data can be to you. So I expect you to use this data for my benefit. Because you can be damn sure I will be.”
His conclusion is that small data is specific and concrete, which makes it easier to to “make good use of it.” And more so, requires us to understand our customers, their lives and where we fit within them. This is exactly the connection I’m looking to make between the worlds of CRM and small data, in the research I’m ramping up at Digital Clarity Group.
1. The Guardian (UK) – Forget Big Data, Small Data is the Real Revolution – one of the most widely referenced pieces of the last few months, Open Knowledge Foundation founder Rufus Pollock frames big data as the latest “centralization fad” and notes:
“the real opportunity is not big data, but small data. Not centralized “big iron”, but decentralized data wrangling. Not “one ring to rule them all” but “small pieces loosely joined.”
I love the point about decentralization, which ties nicely into the social aspect of small data. In fact Pollock ends with a great framing of small data as part of a larger movement driven by digital disruption and democratization of IT:
“This next decade belongs to distributed models not centralized ones, to collaboration not control, and to small data not big data.”
In terms of older articles, check out my guest post in Forbes from last October, and the early piece by Patrick Gray in TechRepublic that argues for a practical, consolidated approach to data and reporting.
What articles did I miss? What’s on your “must read” list?
As social channels continue to feed the big data hype machine, I figured it would be insightful to fire up my favorite social search tool to see which vendors are making the grade (or dominating the conversation) when it comes to social discussions. This post summarizes what I found after a couple evenings of analysis, so it’s not meant to be exhaustive by any stretch, but hopefully provides some interesting insights – and a starting point for further analysis. Thanks for checking it out!
For a first cut, I used Topsy, an excellent search tool we’ve used for social strategy projects at The Pulse, and took a look at mentions of the hashtag #bigdata along with 35 of the top vendors in the space (e.g., #bigdata AND Google) over a 30 day period ending before the end of November, from ALL sources (links, Tweets, Photos, Videos, Experts) on Twitter. Not surprisingly, IBM is dominating the discussion, with over 1000 mentions, followed by EMC (381), SAP (375), Google (355) and Microsoft (310).
Among upstarts, Cloudera was right behind Oracle and HP at 158 mentions, with Splunk (72) and MapR (58) getting their share of social buzz. Interestingly, some much bigger players like Hitachi (only 15 mentions), Xerox (8) and Fujitsu (8) are failing to generate much social chatter related to big data – at least on Twitter.
Here is the full roundup:
To get a better view of social activity weighted by resources I compared the social mentions to the latest vendor data from Wikibon – and more specifically looked at the ‘mentions’ rank vs the revenues rank. So IBM, with the top social mentions AND the top revenue, was right at mid-table (or ‘0’). While standouts (largest difference between social rank and revenue rank – what I’ll call ‘Social IQ’) were QlikTech, Tableau, MapR and Cloudera. Perhaps not a surprise since all are relatively young/small, but well-funded and clearly hitting the social trail big time.
Perhaps a surprise in this cut of the analysis is the strong performance of Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and EMC, showing that all are getting the word out and associating their offering with the big data movement. Note that if a vendor was not included in Wikibon they won’t be in the following chart!
Here’s the full results for the Social IQ of the top big data vendors based on mentions vs revenues rank:
So, who are the ‘social stars’ at this point? Among big companies, IBM, EMC, SAP, Microsoft and Oracle stand out. And among upstarts, clearly QlikTech, Tableau and Cloudera are making the grade.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on other vendors I should include in this study. And please suggest other measures as well for the next cut at the analysis. Thanks again for stopping by!
Whether it’s a great slogan like ’15 minutes could save you 15%.’ Or a clean, functional design from Apple, Dyson or Swatch. Simple sells.
Sometimes the medium – think Twitter or a TED talk – forces us to get to the point and think simple when it comes to communication. 140 characters or an 18 minute session drives a certain structure in our storytelling, and rewards brevity. But even when we have the luxury of rich media like online video or full-length feature or e-book, it pays to think small in our content marketing as well. Not just in terms of short segments or chapters, but also format (think the ‘MyFive’ videos used to promote Inbound Marketing Summit – like this cool one from my friend Chris Brogan), delivery and takeaways.
Speaking of video, an interesting trend appears to be emerging when you look over ComScore’s U.S. Online Video Rankings: the average online video is getting shorter! Starting in June, 2012, it was 6.8 minutes; in July and August, 6.7 and by September it was down to 6.4 minutes. Also, if you’re creating short-form videos, there’s a really good chance they will be watched first on a mobile device. Which is why a mobile-first philosophy, discussed in my latest Forbes.com piece with Mark Fidelman, is a key pillar of small data design.
And if you’re writing copy, or an article or a social post, ‘saying it short’ is a great approach, as outlined in this excellent post on the Beyond PR blog from last year. Of course it also helps to start with an attention-grabbing message, headline or statistic that sets the context as Kare Anderson points out in her fantastic (and brief!) piece for HBR last December.
So, if you want to get your viewer’s/reader’s/buyer’s attention via great content and communication – think simple, think smart (what does my audience really need to know? How can I relate my content to an example or slogan they already know?), and design/create your story or multi-channel campaign for users on the go.
Did I get your attention?