Humanizing Big Data, or How To Turn It Into Actionable Little Data

Gartner defines Big Data as “high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.” A bit of a mouthful! 

Big Data has been all over the web and tech news in 2013; everyone is into it, regardless of sector. Though the truth is – according to Gartner, at least – that Big Data has already crested the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and is going down the “Trough of Disillusionment.”

A recent white paper by Thomson Reuters’s IP & Science business identifies some reasons behind the disillusionment, and paths to reasonable expectations. It focuses entirely on the Pharma sector (which is dear to me, having worked in it for so many years), but I believe it offers some helpful generic strategies for any business to manage Big Data.

The report states that “humans aren’t built to work with Big Data directly”. Instead, that data needs to be collated, analyzed, cleared of noise, processed, visualized and shared in smaller chunks – “Little Data” – that can lead to clear actions.

The job of Big Data information providers is mostly about getting “the right data, to the right people in a way that they can use it to do their jobs smarter.”

According to Thomson Reuters (and I’d agree), Big Data presents both a challenge and an opportunity. We need to “recognize that the Big Data opportunity is not about the technology per se, it’s about learning to work in an environment where the data (Big or otherwise) has to flow to be relevant.”

And “that means breaking down the walls between internal, external, public and commercial content and giving customers the tools to work across them, whether that is by opening programmatic access, acting as a data warehouse, providing professional services or designing intuitive analytics.” All things that are achievable and present in any sector, not just Pharma.

On an interesting, almost sci-fi angle, the report also points to “Personalized Medicine” as a realistic possibility through the (sensible) use of Big Data – which I think would be simply fab, and possibly life changing, from all perspectives.

[First published 04 Nov 2013 on BraveNewTalent; edited]