I’ve worked with data throughout my career (possibly for my sins). I’m not a data scientist, but even before BuzzData barely a day went by where an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file didn’t end up in my inbox. Sales forecasts, cost-benefit analyses, market research, product test results, benchmark data, P&Ls and other financial data – even my own household budget.
Now, given my role at BuzzData, I also work “in” data – I’m part of the data sector or ecosystem. So naturally, I follow industry trends. Now barely a day goes by without something Big Data-related ending up in my inbox.
Don’t get me wrong – I think Big Data is pretty darn cool. I’m not going to pretend that I know my Hadoop from my elbow, but I recognize the potential of Big Data and understand that Big Data is rightly a Big Deal. It’s not just a “current obsession.”
But I do worry that all the noise currently around Big Data is detracting from a very real problem that already exists for organizations over and above “what to do about Big Data?” What is this problem? Simple: how best to share the data you already have.
I’m talking about your sales forecasts, test results, HR employee lists, your output from Big Data analysis, etc. You’ve done the work creating or curating the data – but how do you share it so that it becomes useful and improves your organization’s collective knowledge? This data might not be big, but it’s important to you and your organization. In fact, Big Data might be compounding this problem: after all, Big Data needs to be turned into yet more data – specifically smaller data files – to become digestible by people and actually actionable. And again, that data needs to be shared.
Just identifying this problem immediately prompts two questions. First, how do we share data today? Well, if you’re like most people, you probably a) email it around or b) put it in a folder somewhere, perhaps using a simple file-sharing platform (like Dropbox or Box) or some form of enterprise collaboration platform (like Sharepoint or Huddle).
Second: Is there anything wrong with sharing via email and file folders? Well, when you open a data file this way, you aren’t shown:
- What exactly you’re looking at (all you’ve got is the file name to go on, possibly a bit of a cover note in an email)
- How this data was together and by whom
- How many versions of this data there are and where they are
- Who else is using or has used this data and for what
- What the bigger picture is (why are you looking at this?)
- What useful information is actually in the data: What other files are associated with this data and how?
This data-sharing problem is perhaps most obvious in government. Open-data initiatives are good for many reasons, not least because they can radically improve internal data-sharing. “One of the reasons governments opened up their data is because it allowed better communication between departments,” Open Knowledge Foundation founder Rufus Pollock told us in an interview in 2011. And he’s right: it’s consistently documented that a high percentage of the initial visits open data platforms receive upon launch are from internal IP addresses.
The bottom line here is that certain types of files – data files (.xls, .csv, etc.) – need context to aid engagement. These kinds of files are inevitably part of a bigger picture, and that’s the real thing that needs to be communicated – the story, if you will, in your data. This is how your data becomes clever.
We’re making things better for anyone who needs to share data with their team, organization or the world. We’ve spoken with a lot of people about their specific issues and possible solutions, and continue to do so every day. We don’t really care if your data is big or not, we just want it to be as clever as possible.
Nick Edouard, EVP Business Development & Marketing, BuzzData
Want to know more about how we’re making data sharing easy, effective and engaging? Check out http://buzzdata.com or get in touch with me directly at email@example.com.