The obsession with “big data” with some marketers and organizations may do little for the average business, unless and until the right data is acquired, managed, and used.
Heard of “GAS”, as in “gadget acquisition syndrome”?
Yes, many of us geeks fall prey to “GAS”, which is a colloquial description for people who have to purchase new gadgets when they are launched, as with many consumers who also fall prey to fleeting fashion and beauty trends.
Just the other day, I was at a shop looking at some manual lenses for my Fujifilm X-E2, and the proprietor insisted that I do not buy those lenses, but buy the new Sony A7 instead. He did have a valid point – the Sony A7 is a tiny full-frame camera with great technical capabilities on paper, compared to my APS-C sensor Fujifilm X-E2.
I decided to check the many technical reviews online, from professional photographers, journalists, to enthusiasts. While the technical specifications of the Sony A7 is great, the current lens availability is meager at best, and many of the manual M-mount lenses didn’t seem to work particularly well with this camera according to some of the images I have seen, with vignetting at the corners. Sony does have an excellent roadmap of lenses they will launch at some point, and this camera will become a serious contender to the full-frame market.
However, when my senses returned, I realized that my work these days are mostly hybrid photography, which means a combination of stills and videography, and my Panasonic Lumix GH3 provides me with some of the most exquisite video footage I will need, and my Fujifilm X-E2 is more than adequate for my still photography. In short, I have no need for a new camera.
In the many decades I have experienced in the digital frontier since the heady days of running bulletin board systems (BBS), Fortran programming, CompuServe mail, and so forth, there has been many waves of new technologies that came… and gone. Many of those technological waves were mere fads, and faded into obscurity or complete oblivion.
I remember in the 1980s when I was one of the pioneering desktop publishing specialists and evangelists for the Mac platform, the Mac we used to publish documents needed no more than 512k of memory and mere 3.5-inch floppy disks for storage.
Today, the average computer user probably has hundreds of gigabytes of space on their laptops or desktop computers, although truthfully, many of the documents residing in the space can be deleted or optimized. As a systems administrator, I have had to clean up the drives of some users because they stored carelessly multiple copies of the same documents in various directories, creating confusion for themselves. I have also seen graphic and photographic images that were uncompressed and unoptimized, which took up lots of space for no good reason, and slowed down productivity.
I have designed relational database systems and customized software applications since the 1990s for internal use, and it was never a straightforward picture. And then I found “nirvana” in managing data in our practice when I realized there was no real need for relational databases, but simply a flat-file system with a well-defined and disciplined approach to data naming conventions, a well designed and simple knowledge management system, and a good dose of people management. There is many ways to the same outcome, and sometimes, simplicity is the best solution and achieves the best outcomes.
There is a good reason for big data, if you happen to be a national law enforcement institution, a large research facility figuring out complex things like the human gene or theoretical physics, a super-scale international e-commerce platform, or something akin to those complex matters. For those that have no choice but to turn to big data, it is a good thing.
However, for most of us running small and medium businesses, the idea of “big data” has zero or little appeal to us. The sheer task of attempting to acquire multiple and huge data sources, then managing them in huge data centers, and finding the scientists to manage them, is not something that has any practical meaning to us. Furthermore, big data has its fair share of critics from the scientific circles compared to other established approaches, but that is outside our interest as business and marketing folks.
More importantly to us, we need to find the best optimized ways to acquire the right sets of data, and then sieving through these optimized data to find meaning to the data, converting them to knowledge for our team members, and then going on our business. It is about finding the smartest, fastest, and most viable means to go from raw data to business competitiveness. We are not in the least interested in getting misty-eyed with petabytes of data.
Big is not always right. Big is not always better. Small can be right, better, and smarter. We have no need to always sway to any fad or trend. It is all about practicality and context, and it is about who we are and what we really need.