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Small Data Goes Big Time

FuelBig Data is everywhere. Yet many companies lack a clear vision for rolling out big data in practical, measured steps. At the same time, with social networking, BYOD, and expectations from interactions with brands like Amazon, Apple, and Nike, most employees have seen the potential, yet many aren’t equipped to harness this power in their workplace. The small data movement — which I’ve been writing about for the past 6 months, starting with this piece in — aims to address these challenges and re-envision the “last mile” of big data via consumer-style, more responsive, more social apps that truly turn insight into action.

Not surprisingly, this idea is getting a LOT of attention. In fact, over the past 6 months there’s been as much published about small data as there was in the previous 3 years. Clearly small data has gone big time as a theme, concept, and set of tools. Why?

  • First, while understandably there’s a lot of excitement about big data, there’s a growing reality that doing it at scale and waiting for all the trickle down benefits can take a lot of time.  Especially if you’re not in the C-suite.
  • Second, (and here’s where I jump on my soapbox), the last mile of big data is really where the value is created, opinions are formed, insights are shared, and action are made. By non data scientists. Everyday.
  • Third, there’s some great consumer examples of small data hitting the stage, most notably the much hyped but potentially game-changing Google Glass, which brings together small data and visualization with wearable computing, all in a semi-stylish package.

Who is Fueling the Small Data Movement 

While I’m thrilled that many are getting on the small data bandwagon, there’s still much work to do. Fortunately, a growing number of vendors get the value of creating/enabling simple, smart, responsive, socially aware tools and solutions. I wrote about 10 of them, including Actuate, GoodData, NetBase, Twitter and Visible in my post here. In the last couple months I’ve also had conversations with a number of other vendors who are definitely worth watching as the small data movement takes off.

Here are some additions to my list in the previous post, along with what they bring to the game and how they may benefit from the movement:

  • Adobe – Adobe has been known for years as the company with all the tools for the creative set. But if you haven’t noticed, the company has also built out an impressive portfolio of solutions for advertising, Web analytics, and social marketing. This combo offers some great upside for tapping the big (and small) data movement — especially for marketing types.
  • Foursquare – Driven by a $41M series D round earlier this month, Foursquare is back in the news. But if you look at what they have built (and are building) for connecting mobile consumers to cool businesses, and businesses to new customers, and more generally what Dennis Crowley calls a “location layer” for the Internet, this is really a pretty awesome small data company . . . whether they know it or not!
  • Google – Sure, it’s on my original list given the company’s alignment with the key pillars of small data — simple, smart, mobile, and social. But Google is worthy of a second mention even if Google Glass is still a “year-ish away” according to Eric Schmidt. Say what you will, but it’s more apparent than ever that Google could be to small (and big) data what Microsoft was to PCs.
  • SAP – With its HANA in-memory database, extensive ecosystem, and a myriad of analytics, visualization, and cloud solutions, SAP is well positioned to accelerate the adoption of big data by the masses. Even more so, in my conversations at the recent SAPInsider event there’s strong alignment with the small data message among both SAP product execs and customers I talked to, which makes it likely that if they build it, they will come.
  • TIBCO – Real-time event processing is important today, and will get even more important as enterprises become more mobile and more social. But the company’s Spotfire analytics and visualization tools (and focus on big data for all users) are the real reason why I see TIBCO as a sleeping giant when it comes to small data.

A New Industry Study

Clearly, there’s a huge opportunity for consumers, vendors and service providers who get ahead of the curve and embrace the most impactful ways for bringing the power of big data to the masses. For this reason, I’ll be launching a new big data multi-client study that will map the evolving landscape, outline a new “small data manifesto,” and capture use cases and case studies that should provide useful to organizations embarking on their own small data journey.

If you have tools or success stories you’d like to contribute, I’d love to read your suggestions in the comments below. Or if you are interested in participating or sponsoring this study feel free to drop us a line here.



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