Big Data | Make Better Decisions: Don’t Buy Into The Big Data/Small Data Hype

Simulated Gas Leak Fire - Training Centre at Brukunga, South Australia. Photo Taken by Megan Rogerson

Simulated Gas Leak Fire - Training Centre at Brukunga, South Australia. Photo Taken by Megan Rogerson

Did you know you aren’t supposed to put out an electrical fire with water?

The reason is that the electric current can flow back up with the stream of water and electrocute you.

With a LPG fire you actually want to isolate the gas and not extinguish the flame.

This is because if you extinguish the flame, you can create a much more dangerous environment where you lose sight of the leak and there is also the potential for a deadly explosion.

Despite this, people still get hurt with trying to extinguish common fires for two main reasons:

  1. They apply the wrong information to their decision making process (that water puts out all fires)

  2. They don’t have all the details (that the fire is electrical or a gas leak in the first place)

Another reason is that they are human and they panic! Dealing with a fire is a stressful situation, if you have ever been in this situation you will know that it is easy to make a bad decision based on what you believe is the right thing to do. Fire progression is rapid and ferocious.

Businesses experience the same issues when using big data.

First, let me define these two terms. Small data is data that is 'small' enough for our consumption and importantly it is actionable, informative and accessible. Big data relates to data sets that are far too large and complex for humans or even traditional software systems to deal with.

floppy disk.jpg

Why data science fails

Data science fails most businesses because people tend to ‘cherry pick’ and use data to:

  • Confirm bias

  • Observe patterns that aren’t there

  • Make decisions based on non-cohesive data points

The worst part is they don’t know they are doing it! Just like people who don’t know their fire is an electric one and try to douse it with water, businesses end up hurting their revenue when they make decisions.

So what’s the solution?

Small data is one of the answers, here’s why.

The Cunning Beauty Behind Small Data

To understand the impact small data has, we need to understand the issues with big data and the data science business.

Big data is a popular term and there is lots of hype around it. Every major software vendor has added it to their marketing campaigns and it is also psychologically appealing.


We are trained from an early age to believe there lies a strength to numbers. In fact, from an early age, we are socially branded to think this through phrases like,

‘The more the merrier.’

Our minds are programmed to look for patterns. With big data that can be a problem.

When looking at big sets of information, you get the opportunity to identify lots of patterns.

Not only that. The bigger the data, the greater the chance of being able to draw the connections you want to see, even when they aren’t there.


This practice is so common it has a name: Analytical Bias

To be fair, the data science business tries to combat this. The issue is that by the time the message gets from the data driven business to the regular business, it is either watered down, too late, or forgotten altogether.

Another issue with large data is its momentum.

Big data is slow by its very nature. By the time most companies can finally use it, the content can be dated or no longer viable.

To combat this, you need your data to be accurate and current so you can make business decisions in real time.

Why businesses love the agile nature of small data


Businesses that leverage small data can quickly adopt it into their business and for good reason.

Small data is agile.

With small data, you can assess market need, interest, and viability in real time and decide if you want to profit as an early adopter, or save your investment for a better alternative or opportunity.

Small data is bite sized pieces of information that you can digest and act upon. This is one of the reasons why businesses love small data. Small data is actionable.

Final Thought

Complex large data set analysis is important. Big data is an interesting topic and its potential is compelling, just don’t buy into the hype and don’t pursue it until you’ve done the easy stuff first.

With small data you can have a quicker ROI with some easy wins right away, and valuable insights can be gained with powerful, inexpensive tools and techniques.

Tools like Qlik and Microsoft Power Bi make it quite easy to answer important questions quickly. You don’t have to wait a long time to get the right answers and useful dashboards can be built in just a few hours.

If you’d like to hear more, join our mailing list to get regular updates, articles, ideas, and announcements from the front lines of the data industry.

We work with clients each day to provide valuable insights into their business. This week we are building a new dashboard using Power BI for monthly management reporting.

If you’d like to get in touch or comment on an of my blogs you can reach me directly via my contact details below.

Many Thanks, Jp.

John-Paul Della-Putta


Advance Business Consulting

Phone: +61 8 8238 6500