More Data, More Problems

I have memories of my mother telling me when I was a kid not to bite off more than I could chew. That seems to be the biggest challenge with big data.

There is so much of it, we can’t seem to figure out how to capture it, store it, search it, analyze it or visualize it. It is simply overwhelming. What are we supposed to do? We certainly can’t wait for all the technology to be in place to address this issue. That’s the cart leading the horse.

I would suggest that while we’re waiting for technology to evolve, we have to make some hard decisions regarding what we do–and don’t try to analyze. Too much of a good thing can indeed become a bad thing. Here are five suggestions:

  1. Decide what data matters most and is worth analyzing and reporting on. If you already know how your consumers in a certain market segment are reacting to your efforts, limit analysis to new market segments or new product offerings.
  2. Seed a few comments about your services on social media sites and see what type of reactions you receive. While immediate visceral reactions aren’t always statistically meaningful, they will give you a flavor for the kind of “energy” people have toward your organization and its offerings.
  3. Talk to people you trust and respect. I call it the hallway metric. What will people you trust tell you that others won’t?
  4. Get out of your office and visit your consumers. In our case, that means talking to the people who play in the United States Tennis Association leagues and tournaments. What do they think about our new products? What challenges are they experiencing that we can’t envision while sitting behind a desk?
  5. Work with your clients to pare down the mountain of data to the handful of data elements that they feel are most germane to determining trends, progress and challenges. Don’t presuppose the answers. Ask them what they think matters most.

The suggestions listed above certainly won’t solve all the problems of big data. It will take us some time and some more innovation to do so. Meanwhile, we still have businesses to run. Let’s focus on that for the time being.

About the Author

Larry Bonfante is CIO of the United States Tennis Association and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at [email protected]

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