Are “Small” and “Smart” Keys to Your Big Data Success?

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Allen BondeIn this special guest feature, Allen Bonde of Actuate discusses why we need to take all the Big Data we’re building up, pour it down a “data funnel” – then deliver it to customers as Small Data in ways that make it incredibly valuable. Allen Bonde is VP of Product Marketing & Innovation at business reporting and analytics leader Actuate Corporation – the people behind BIRT.

Big Data is a hot topic right now – it is a big market and enterprises are investing heavily in systems to manage it. But, missing from the discussion is one key question: How do we utilize data at scale and from multiple sources in truly data-driven apps that offer the functionality enterprises want – all with the intuitive look and feel we get today from consumer apps?

Of course the answer isn’t easy. But until we start addressing this question we can’t get near to the effective data-driven apps that analysts are heralding as the next Big Thing – or what market research company IDC is touting 2014 as – “The year of data driven marketing”.

I’m not saying it’s a painless process. To create apps that provide massive amounts of data in a highly visual, easily digestible format with intuitive interfaces is only the start. These apps must also be usable with little or no training. And they must meet, and actually anticipate, our needs. A tall order indeed.

But take a look at the bigger picture. Rather than tackling all that Big Data, our approach needs to be “Small Data” – the data inside Big Data that really makes the difference. Small Data makes apps simpler, smarter and more responsive. In order for this “Small Data” approach to bear fruit, we need to build virtual “smart funnels” that will filter Big Data into useful Small Data nuggets that – in the apps that contain them – optimize real world tasks. It is the Small Data concept that will hook consumers, and if your apps are truly “data driven,” you must remember what your customers need at all times.

It is all about providing a system that supports the delivery, to internal as well as external customers, of useful and relevant data driven apps – apps that customers actually want to use. So what form will these apps actually take? They will be based on a mashup of historical, real-time and trend-based data. And they will be very focused and perfectly agile. The real-time data presented in them will support targeted sales and marketing by providing actionable intelligence. The historical and trend-based data will empower competitive intelligence and provide a deeper understanding of the customer. These new – truly data-driven – apps will give customers the accessibility and insight they crave.

If you’re looking for an example what these data-driven apps will look like, check out the Kayak when-to-book tool. What makes Kayak’s customers love it is the fact that the tool takes billions of data points at the back end (from pricing and trend-based information) and transforms Big Data into Small Data that provides valuable yet simple purchasing guidance – even to the point of telling the user when the fare for their particular route is predicted to decrease. It is the kind of compelling app that does what it says on the tin – save you time and money, and help you accomplish everyday tasks more efficiently.

Small Data has the added advantage that it creates customer loyalty, because it’s far more user friendly than vendor friendly. There’s a plethora of these simple, more responsive, compelling apps we could develop by funneling down Big Data into Small Data, from alerts to predictive analytics to social listening – and the list goes on. But, to get to that point, we need effective technology to enable us to collect and process the data, as well as tools to funnel it into “must have” apps.

We are starting to see a very clear set of principles that data-driven app designers can use to their advantage. These became clear after tracking the move from Big Data to digestible Small Data, as defined by me and my colleagues during my years as analyst and researcher at firms such as Yankee Group, McKinsey, and the Digital Clarity Group.

Supporting these emerging principles will support creation of enhanced business analytics and superior APIs. In my role at Actuate, working with our 200+ OEMS and millions of BIRT and BIRT iHub developers, we’ve mapped out some clear ways forward:

  • Begin with the customer in mind – make your customer your r’aison d’etre –is the customer’s evolution you are enabling.
  • Think about the ‘last mile’ of Big Data –don’t focus your vision on the beginning of the journey, focus on the end: Consider what your customers – whether internal or external – are going to need from the app, and that will provide you with the blueprint for developing it.
  • Don’t put scale on the back burner – you need to have the horsepower in place to roll out your new data-driven apps to (potentially) millions of customers.
  • Personal is the way forward – your data-driven apps need to be customizable by each user, even if you are planning a mass roll out.

What you can take from this is that the methods exist here and now for funneling Big Data into compelling Small Data apps. So you can build the smart, intuitive apps customers want today.


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