How Small Data Transforms Business Today

Everyone talks about the importance of Big Data and how harnessing the power of information from a plethora of sources can be a real game changer.

However, it’s often the more defined data sets that can help transform a business into a competitive powerhouse. This is considered small data, not Big Data. For example, Big Data projects typically cover a broad array of information generated from business sources such as sales transactions combined with geographical data, government data and even social media chatter.

Small data, by contrast, is derived from local sources and in more digestible batches. Viewed another way, if Big Data has been largely about machines and processing power, small data is about people, context and individual requirements. And it’s transforming businesses in incredible ways.

Consider the case of a lunch shop in California whose manager used her data to help increase cash flow and decrease supply costs. Lindsay Hiken, who owns the Village Cheese House (@VCHPaloAlto) in Palo Alto, Calif., began tracking various bits of known data that were important to her business: the demographics of people coming in, food supply prices, daily receipt data, and more.


Companies collect data, but not many small business owners are looking at it. Hiding in those numbers could be some great strategies to make your company thrive. With the help of a small data approach, Hiken found billing and ordering errors that were wasting money, and customer information that helped her streamline her product selection to please her younger clientele.

In a recent television program segment on MSNBC’s OPEN Forum, OpenText VP Product Marketing and Innovation Allen Bonde (@abonde) provided some valuable insight into how businesses large and small should be thinking about information.

“This is the difference between a business that generates data, which all businesses do, and a business that is data driven where the data becomes part of the decision-making process,” Bonde related.

The key to bridging the gap between having data and using it, according to Bonde, is to take a fresh look at the role of data and analytics, and apply a market-driven view informed by the needs of all stakeholders: front-line users, marketers and analysts, clients, and of course IT and development teams. Bridging the gap also requires a simplified view of the analytic process that streamlines how and where we apply various analytic techniques.

Feel free to check out the MSNBC segment in the media player below.

For more insight into small data and its significance for businesses, check out Bonde’s latest article, Turning Data into Insight: A Market Driven View of Big (and Small) Data Analytics, published by the Wall Street Technology Association.


OpenText is the leader in Enterprise Information Management (EIM). Our EIM products enable businesses to grow faster, lower operational costs, and reduce information governance and security risks by improving business insight, impact and process speed.

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