Charting the future of public relations
In Data, Small Is The New Big
Holmes Report
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

In Data, Small Is The New Big

Holmes Report

By Allyson Hugley & Adam Mack [caption id="attachment_1582" align="alignright" width="150"]Allyson Hugley Allyson Hugley[/caption] A Google search for mentions of the term 'big data' yields over 370 million pieces of news content. In contrast, just under 33 million pieces surface from a search for the term “Small Data.” Regardless, it is becoming increasingly clear that a “small data” movement is gaining momentum as more companies across sectors, including communications, begin to challenge the hype and rethink the value of going big. The near cult-like obsession with big data as the singular solution for optimizing products, performance and profitability seems to be resulting in more stones than silver bullets. Despite broad championing of the concept of big data and significant investments across industries in data acquisition and management systems [according to Gartner, big data drove $3.7 trillion in IT spending in 2013 ], the percentage of businesses sufficiently adept in their management and use of big data to achieve appreciable returns is quite nominal. [caption id="attachment_1583" align="alignright" width="150"]Adam Mack Adam Mack[/caption] According to research published by Bain & Company, only about 4% of companies are using big data well. For the non- 'data elite', the 96% for which big data has likely been more distraction than differentiator, it is time to shut off the natural default mechanisms in the brain that equate bigger with better and allow logic to prevail. After spending the past few years gorging on the empty calories and noise of big data hype, it is time for a more measured approach and renewed focus on smaller data sets, analyzed in more intricate ways. As with food, it is not the size of the portions, but rather the care, attention and sophistication that go into combining and preparing the ingredients that define the quality and value of the meal. In 2014, there will be a full-on rethinking of the importance and expectations associated with big data. As more rational views of the benefits and drawbacks of big data begin to take root this year, more companies will come to terms with the realities of what is required in terms of organizational culture, structure, resources and talent to realize the full promise of big data. At which point the benefits of small data – accessibility, immediacy and malleability—will become apparent. First, small data is more readily available in most organizations – so the cost and time associated with data acquisition is not a factor. Second, while big data may be generated at high velocity, big data projects are time consuming –in many cases requiring 12-to-18 months to complete. Small data can provide interim metrics while data systems are being built out. Finally, small data can be fused with and integrated into other data sets to deliver more sophisticated analysis and compelling insights. From the perspective of our industry and what we offer clients, this in turn means three things. Firstly, it’s about supplementing existing data sources with smart, always-on additions that build on our reputation for rapid action. Secondly, it means building our data readiness incrementally (and cost-effectively) rather than opening the data floodgates and joining the 96% of those businesses who are not using data to its maximum effect. And finally, with careful up-skilling and targeted recruitment, better use of small data will help us build much stronger evidence-based foundations on which to build bolder campaigns that both push boundaries and drive clients’ commercial goals. Allyson Hugley  is EVP of measurement, analytics and insights at Weber Shandwick. Adam Mack is chief strategy officer at Weber Shandwick EMEA.
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