Of data, big and small

Two interesting articles on big data have come across my transom in the past few days, and I wanted to comment on them.

The first article is from Inc. magazine entitled “5 Trends to Ignore in 2013” (Hat tip Elizabeth Engel). One of the five trends the author suggests small businesses ignore (and let’s face it, most associations ARE small businesses) is “big data.” As the author puts it,

“Most decisions are built on small data: dozens or hundreds or maybe thousands of data points. If you don’t have systems in place that let you regularly and predictably make effective use of the data you already have, then looking at big data is like saying you want to jump into the ocean to avoid getting damp from a summer shower.”

I couldn’t agree more. The vast majority of associations I work with don’t have systems in place to manage or analyze “big” data, nor do they have a need for it. It’s too easy to get sidetracked chasing big data when it’s the small data that will help you operate more efficiently, communicate more effectively, and advance your mission.

The second article is from ASAE’s Association Now, in an article entitled “Learning to Love Big Data, a Little at a Time.” This article addresses the issue of big data for associations, and includes some choice quotes from yours truly. This article also emphasizes that small data is better than big data:

“Those “who focus their efforts and dive deep into a few business-critical sets of data such as sales in a specific sector, or performance metrics during peak vs. low seasons, will see quicker and better results than companies that try to take on too much,” said Santiago Becerra, cofounder of Roambi—a mobile business intelligence developer.”

Big data is all the rage, no doubt. But associations would be better served focusing on their “small data” and making sure they’re getting that right.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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