By Scott Gibson

Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. The thought of that scale can send a chill down many a spine.

So many sources, so many permutations, so many outcomes…so much data waiting to be turned into knowledge, insight and facts.

The necessity of data to modern businesses will never be called into question and its importance grows day by day. It is essential for gaining insights and making better decisions, developing products and selling more. However, ‘Big Data’ – a staple phrase for a number of years now (and a strange phrase considering that data is somewhat immeasurable) – will only ever be of value if used properly.

If hoarded, data can be a hindrance. If used for looking into the past, rather than gazing into the future, it can be an obstacle to progress. Hindsight, insight and foresight are all of equal value. Put simply, when it comes to data, it’s not what you know, it’s quite the opposite. It’s actually what you don’t, and there lies the most value.

Unearthing the value

At the risk of sounding Orwellian, businesses could – and arguably should – be using their data to become mind readers, looking into their organisational crystal ball to recognise and release latent value, second-guessing customer behaviour. They could be seeking trends and understanding that everything is connected, even if those data-sets are held oceans apart.

However, the challenge lies in extracting value from the ever-evolving ‘data ecosystem and knowing where to look for it. But just where do you start?

The latest developments within analytics show that data is now both structured and unstructured. It no longer lives in a spreadsheet. It is anywhere and it is everywhere – Twitter, Facebook, surveys, the entire connected world (thanks to the ‘Internet of Things’), spoken, written, video – the list goes on. However, to prevail, and add much needed value, it must be given context.

A number of larger organisations make claims about their ability to look at ‘business problems’ and solve them using data. However, those that will prosper – and are showing the most promise – in this rapidly moving data-laden and technology-driven landscape are the ones that can uncover stories hidden in plain sight. They are the ones providing context to the disparate elements and have the ability to produce the sum of the parts.

Smart data, an analogy

A simple analogy of moving house neatly demonstrates the power of ‘Smart Data’ and the value of working with a partner that can help you unleash hidden potential.

Imagine moving house. Imagine you’ve packed all your worldly possessions into boxes. Box after box enters your new property, stacked in various rooms. Now imagine you need to locate something. You’ve labelled your boxes, but still you need get to the item quickly. You envisage it is buried at the bottom of the pile. You’ve guessed right and it isn’t an easy task to pinpoint the item you desire. Now imagine moving into hundreds, thousands and millions of houses all at once and looking for that “something”.

Why smart data? In this instance, smart data, and releasing the power of smart data, would allow you to see into every house, room and box with an almost x-ray vision and extra-sensory perception.

With smart data and the right partner, you will find what you are looking for.

Releasing potential

Value can be perceived in a number of formats. It could be a cost-saving opportunity, it could be unearthing fraud, uncovering new customer intelligence or predictions for a particular market sector. In other words, ‘propensity in action’.

When it comes to big data, it is worthwhile putting your energy into a partnership that will gather the right information from a myriad of sources and tell you a story that allows you to unlock organisational value.

While ‘Big Data’ sorts the provenances ‘Smart Data’ gives us the propensity to uncover the value in “what we don’t know”.

So why not use big data, gather the sources and free the information. It may not be big, but it’s certainly very clever.