Contrary to popular belief, quantity is not always better than quality. I was recently on a panel at the DIG South conference in Charleston, S.C., where this question came up: “How do you know when you have big data?”
The normal responses were provided, but it was important to me to articulate the importance of having good data. I firmly believe having high-quality data that is applicable, that can be analyzed, and that you can have confidence in is far superior to “big” data.
Here is an interesting fact. During the Space Race of the 1960s, NASA used the latest and greatest technology to create an onboard computer on the Apollo spacecraft that held a mind-numbing 64 kilobytes of storage. In my pocket, I carry an iPhone 6 that offers in excess of 1,048,576 times more storage than the first machine that transported man to land on the moon.
My iPhone has over 1 million times more data capacity, but it can’t navigate the dangers of space and safely transport me to the moon.
Here are more numbers to digest. Every minute of each day:
- Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content.
- Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times.
- Instagram users post nearly 220,000 new photos.
- YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content.
- Apple users download nearly 50,000 apps.
- Email users send over 200 million messages.
That’s a lot of “big” data being generated, but the question we need to answer is, can we actually use it all?
When we look into analyzing big data, it’s critical to take a step back and answer a few realistic questions:
- Do you have the capacity to store the volume of data you intend on collecting?
- Can you create a platform allowing you to organize data in a way that permits generating useful reports?
- Does your company employ real data scientists who know how to deal with data sets of that scale and volume?
And arguably the most important question is, are you able to make sense of all that data before the next batch of data hits the servers?
A typical battle cry heard from Fortune 500 companies to small startups is, “I want to measure everything.” This is ironically followed by “I’m drowning in useless data.” This is where a solid data governance plan can have an immediate and positive impact on your company.
If you are drowning in the quagmire of big data and not able to make heads or tails of it, perhaps it is time to take a step back and refocus on the key data points you need most. Making sure your data collection ensures the highest levels of data quality is hard and sometimes tedious work, but it is critical to have good data that provides deep insight and allows you to make the best critical business decisions.
In the fast-paced, real-time, continually evolving world we live in today, having the ability to effectively target consumers is the ultimate objective. However, it’s not possible to find the Holy Grail of digital marketing unless you start on the foundation of having a clean data set that is reliable so you can provide the right message at the right time to the right customer.