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Data & Intelligence

Little Data

Here at the Gartner BI Conference in Los Angeles this week, and everywhere else that  I turn for that matter, all I hear about is Big Data this and Big Data that.  Even at breakfast this morning, those now all too familiar two words kept popping up in conversations all around me until I thought was going out of my mind!

But, can I ask a question?  Has everyone forgotten about little data?  For a very long time, that was the only kind of data there was, and it was very important.  In the early days of computing, when there was almost no memory to work with and even the external drives were just tapes or small capacity disks, all anyone even thought about processing, much less storing, was little data.

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Data came to you slowly and in small amounts, and it came in very limited forms and from very limited sources.  All of the data was on the old IBM cards that had been keypunched by rows of keypunch typists.  Since everyone knew that only a limited amount of data could be processed, and that it could not be done very quickly, it was generally only at critical points, like an end of a month, quarter or year, that they even expected a lot of data (other than for payroll processing, of course).  Executives and managers made their analysis and decisions based on these rather infrequent reports, and no one expected to know exactly what was going on right now, or yesterday, or maybe even last week.  That would have been impossible.  They would find out in their monthly reports, and that was still faster and more accurate than before computers, so that was still good.

If something happened to your data back then, which it often did, you simply went back to your hard copy paper backup for the information.  That paper was all stored somewhere, because you could never really trust the computers to do everything right.   And, one of the nicest things of all: the data was only in character format, letters and numbers!  No pictures, sounds, videos, phone transmissions, internet downloads, or anything amorphous or uneasily translatable.  It was a character or number, and that was the end of it.

Now, today, where is little data?  Forgotten, unwanted.  No one talks about it, no one cares about.  It doesn’t seem much worth caring about.  If it is doesn’t come in petabytes or terabytes, how can it be worth anything, anyway?

But, one thing Big Data always needs to remember: if it wasn’t for little data getting everything started, there wouldn’t be any Big Data, either.

By the way, a very happy belated April Fool’s Day!

Thoughts on “Little Data”

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Neetu Shaw

As Perficient's Business Intelligence (BI) Company-Wide Practice leader, Neetu Shaw provides thought leadership in developing and implementing a common BI foundational framework for Perficient and our many BI/DW clients, including common services, methods, knowledge management and an integrated enablement plan for both sales and delivery. Neetu is a business-focused and solutions-driven information management professional with executive consulting experience. Her career has been dedicated to BI consulting, thought leadership and solution sales leadership with solid experience in all phases of program implementation from initial business visioning to ROI justification through execution.

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