Shifting the Focus to 'Good Data'

20/08/2013 13:20 | Updated 19 October 2013

I admit I'm an information junkie - I love trawling the internet, consuming the vast amounts of information that may potentially help me or my business. Then, somewhat ironically, a couple of weeks' ago, sitting right in the middle of an article I was reading titled: The 10 things every business leader should challenge was a challenge that really piqued my interest and resonated with me. It was: '5 - Challenge the Data'. In order to do this, the author suggested that businesses need to be moving away from thinking about 'big data' and start focusing on the intelligent and real value of that data, in other words, thinking less about big data and more about 'good data'.

A tale of the camel and the surfboard
The author - an adviser to Fortune 500 companies - is, in my view, spot on with his opinion on the use of the term 'big data'. We hear a huge amount about it everywhere - what it means, how it impacts on us, how we can harness it etc. But, 'big data' by itself is about as useful as a camel with a surfboard. Why? Because if that same 'big data' is not 'good data' - organised, insightful, credible and consistent - then it's largely redundant and without purpose. And, ironically, it moves us further away from timely and intelligent business decisions, because there is, to put it bluntly, simply more rubbish to wade through.

Everyone's talking about big data, and it's kind of becoming the emperor's new clothes. Big data is just that: Big, cumbersome and most often, unmanageable. There is no inherent value in itself, it is the quality of the data and way it is used that gives it value. Otherwise, it just a massive virtual lump of disparate, often inconsistent or silo'd information, taking up space and confusing those who seek to utilise it. Good data, on the other hand provides businesses with credible information, knowledge and power; which used well, leads to greater effectiveness, profit and success.

Get good data and cause a great disruption
As business people, we're all trying to find new ways to challenge ourselves, our businesses and our industries. In the process of finding clues to the next big challenge or opportunity, we so often focus on the 'disruptive' or the 'innovative' - maybe because we are frightened of missing something big or partly because we hope to uncover something we hadn't thought about before. And of course, the data we have can help this - well the good stuff can at least.

But sometimes you don't have to make a big deal and disrupt the 'norm' or innovate to change the game. Often, you just have to get the basics right and do what you do better and more efficiently. This is because if you stay focused on what matters most to your business, you often find the keys to unlocking a positive future are usually already in your hands - tied up somewhere in that massive data vault you'll know as your server. Solutions like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software unlock this vault, and transform good data into decision-making insights, dashboards and reports to push a business forward.

In fact, it's actually very hard to disruptive and innovative without it anyway. You have to have a strong, centralised and stable platform from which to be a business revolutionary. Boring maybe, and less exciting for sure, but true nevertheless. The best revolutions are always those that have been thoroughly planned and based on authoritative information.

In the end, we need it
Love it or loathe it, we need data. It is the basis of the remarkable digital revolution that is going on out there in every aspect of our business and personal lives. It is providing all of us in business with access to more information in an instant than we could have ever imagined. But, if it's not 'good' data, then however big it is, it's just pointless, destined for irrelevance and obscurity. Just like the poor old camel with the surfboard, wandering aimlessly about the desert, looking for the waves but just seeing a mirage, a distant vision of what could be.

Neil Davidson, Managing Director, Deltek UK, a global provider of Enterprise Resource Planning and Social Collaboration solutions.