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Drowning in Data, Starved for Information

Drowning in Data, Starved for informationIn his 1982 book Megatrends, John Naisbitt wrote “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” While written over 30 years ago, that line is as very true today…but I might change it a bit to match the current state of affairs. Today, we are drowning in data and starved for information.

Every organization has a great deal of data and more data is being collected every day. In addition to the already large data-sets that exist today, many organizations are looking for ways to collect exponentially more data with the Internet of Things (IoT). They want sensors to collect data from all aspects of the business including how their clients interact and use their products and services.

Anyone can collect data. Its easy. All you need to do is turn on a collection system and store data somewhere.  IDC reported in 2012 (pdf) that by 2015, we’d see data stores grow to roughly 8 Zetabytes (ZB) within organizations worldwide.

That’s a lot of data…but how much of that data will actually be useful?  They have a lot of data…but do they have any actionable intelligence?

Data is useless unless you can convert it to information and ultimately into knowledge.  In recent years, big data has been what organizations use to describe their attempts to converting all of their data into useful information.

I’m a fan of big data. I really am. I’ve said for a while that big data is more than a buzzword. Done right, big data can bring a great deal of value to a business but done poorly, big data is nothing more than bits and bytes flying around an organization. Done poorly, big data is just adding more layers of data to make it easier to drown.

When I speak to organizations about their big data initiatives, I find many that understand how important it is to convert their data into useful information. These companies understand that the work they are undertaking is much more than data analysis. They know that data is worthless unless it can be analyzed in a way that produces useful and actionable information. They understand that their big data initiatives are actually big information initiatives.

But…there are still many who don’t understand the importance of the output of data analysis. Sure, most people and organizations understand that data needs to be analyzed but many don’t understand how best to analyze that data. They implement systems and processes for data analysis but never stop to think about how best to use those systems to get the most from their data.

Big data initiatives are worthless unless their end-goal is to deliver information to an organization. That information must then be converted into knowledge to ultimately be worthwhile to the business.  Maybe its time we stop talking about big data and start talking about big information…or even better…big knowledge.

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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