Is There Too Much Data?

Is There Too Much Data?

Among business intelligence professionals, there’s a burgeoning trend with the same conclusion: We have too much data and not enough insight.

According to the Smithsonian, from the year 2003 and working backwards to the beginning of human history, the world generated five billion gigabytes of information. By 2011, the world consumed that much data every two days. By 2013, one scientist predicts it will be every ten minutes.

So, are we using too much data?

Yes. And no.

It appears the consensus is the world has a lot of wasted data. Every Tweet, emailed PDF and tumblr post leads to the data void. Yet, these data pits are fun for consumers and effective for businesses.

Facebook allows them to increase contacts and reach target audiences that were too costly to hit 20 years ago. There’s a personal connection with every social media effort, allowing businesses to truly get to know people and it costs little to nothing.

But that “it’s free and easy” mindset might be leading us toward data destruction. Free software is becoming the viral natural resource that keeps on giving to its downloading customers while adding to the data suck.

There are also boatloads of professional BI applications that offer highly actionable and large chunks of data.

Humans Matter

Even if companies have the very best solutions at their fingertips, delivering the best data, humans still matter more than machines.

CFO Magazine’s “Putting People First: Analytic Tools are Only as Good as the People Who Use Them” highlighted the gross overuse of data and why the people behind the laptop are as important as the BI solutions.

“It’s wrong to start with data,” Jonathan L.S. Byrnes, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink told CFO. “Start by asking what the company should be doing, then reach into the data box, and then apply analytics.”
Some industries do not find data to be helpful.

According to the Wolters Kluwer Health 2011 Point-of-Care Survey, 32 percent of the nation’s physicians said there is too much data and not enough actionable information. Manufacturing is another industry that claims to have too much data, but many analytics professionals say companies just are not using it right.

“Many manufacturers are struggling with labor shortages in critical workforce areas, such as engineering, science, and technology,” wrote Lee Dittmar, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, at Manufacturing Business Technology. “Data analytics can help by giving insight and foresight into employment and wage growth rates, as well as future employment projections, thus helping manufacturers get a handle on their workforce shortfalls.”


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