Big Data anyone? It’s time for Less Data.

Sometimes you need time to think. I’ve just read an interesting post by Maree Conway Slow Strategy that pinpoints “there are no quick fixes, no silver bullets to developing strategy that is futures ready”. People are so anxious finding the right answer, they may not have time to think to ask the right question.

If you are sure having the right question, the specific answer will be ready to serve you. If you don’t, you still will have an answer. As Maree Conway tells, there are multitudes of options to explore and it’s not one single answer. You can’t be sure having the right question until you invest enough time to explore those options. Exploring your options one after the other you will discover that every option are connected to several questions as well. If you got five options – or scenarios – you easily can ask at least three questions.

Examples in a sales environment.
Scenario A: You discover the half year sales revenues are not keeping the pace for the end year. Questions may be (1) what if we book more sales meetings? or (2) what if we put more money in TM lead generation? or (3) what if we try to raise the average order size?
Scenario B: A continued slow down in China (an important market to us) escalate next year. Questions may be (1) what if we layoff five sales reps? or (2) what if we decrease our prices to keep up the number of orders? or (3) what if we increase the hitrate winning the deals?

You see, it’s not that simple just asking one question. Which of the above six is the “right”? That’s the problem with hype of Big Data as well as with Google. For sure, the answers will be there. The databases are full of them, but the tricky part is still to figure out what question to ask. The Big Data database or Google can surely give you patterns for help providing guidelines in which areas to look. However, it’s only historical data – it would still not give you facts about tomorrow. It’s up to you to think about. You need to discuss within your team, and you need time, since there are several scenarios to explore.

Exploring your options to find your right question, of course you may need some historical data. But you don’t need exact facts provided by wrongly asked questions. Big Data consultants will tempt you to ask questions because their only delivery is answers. They are paid after the number of answers, not the quality of the question. I think you should consider not starting any Big Data projects until you are very clear about what you need to know.

In that process, you need Less Data. It’s typically figures about revenues, process efficiency, people etc. This type of information is often easily available from your internal systems. More important, you would also need information such as competitors and their products, macro economics, customer challenges and so on. Do not be tempted to read the consultants’ answers first; they belong to other enterprises’ questions, not yours. Begin with much less data, but much more experience – which is not in any Big Data machine.

This experience is certainly encapsulated in your team and organization already.

Use that experience, take your time, read the blog post by Maree Conway for inspiration and develop your right question tenderhearted.