Information is the first step in the long process of decision making, regardless of the industry you activate in. Small businesses, enterprises, universities and nonprofits all use data to measure success and set key performance indicators (KPIs). But where once Big Data stood king, professionals are slowly turning towards Smart Data. In fact, Smart Data tops Google’s top marketing predictions for 2015. This is because it enables organizations to make better decisions for their future.
But what is Smart Data and what are the rights steps towards being Smart Data driven?
Simply put, Smart Data is a new angle from which to view Big Data in order to make it more actionable. It is related to Big Data in a sense that it picks valuable leads from the amount of information gathered by you. The key differentiator is in the way you analyse data and how you understand the parameters surrounding that data.
What is wrong with Big Data and why is Smart Data better?
Using Smart Data in order to make better decision does not mean that Big Data is dead. Quite the contrary, breaking down client information into demographic or geographic attributes is still an important and valid way to plan your next move as a business.
However, from a qualitative point of view, Big Data struggles to provide any real help to organizations. First of all, vast amounts of data are difficult to analyze and interpret, especially if you don’t have the means (time and tools) to do so. Second, the noise represented by the data load does not indicate any kind of actionable information. And this is the key part.
What Smart Data does is filter out the noise and leave you with valuable data which can be used effectively to make business decisions. How does it do this? There is no magic formula. It is because it looks at specifics instead of the whole picture.
Organization need, as much as possible, to stop being biased when looking at data. Also, they need to seriously question the data and look at the context from which it came. Two things need to be done in order to take a step closer to being smart data driven. Carefully look at the context of the data that is being analyzed and ask more specific questions.
When collecting large amounts of data, contextualizing the information is imperative. What this means is that you should understand and link together activities surrounding the data. For example you might notice that donor retention has risen in the past quarter and don’t know what the cause is; you might have added another newsletter every month showing how their donations are being used or how a project is developing. So in this example, there is a definite cause and effect. The same can be said for a change in customer online behavior and a possible change to the structure of your website. Look at the context surrounding the data.
What contextualizing does is offer the data that helps the improvement of existing processes, eventually developing the capacity for you to predict a set of outcomes. Contextualizing can be very complex, but it can also be very similar to A/B testing when you’re looking at small changes, such as the text of a call-to-action button or the structure of a web form you might use to strengthen your nonprofit organization.
Again, this does not mean that you should throw Big Data out the window because there are certain situations when viewing the whole picture is vital. It depends on the situation if you approach data gathering with a pencil sharpener or with an axe.
Asking Specific Questions
Asking the customer a direct question offers the best kind of data you could possibly wish for. This kind of data has no room for interpretation or approximations, therefore the risk for it to be inaccurate disappears. Because it is the customer that gives you this information, you know exactly what move to make in that direction.
So grab a web form builder, create a survey and publish it on your landing page or insert it into your newsletter and ask what it is exactly you want to know. For example ask your local community what social causes they think you should invest in or find out what they think about a cause you already invested in. Whatever it is you want to find out, just ask.
Through time we have developed technology that gathers all the data we could possibility think of. Now it’s time to be intelligent about it and understand that Big Data has its role, but information becomes more fruitful if you look at it from the Smart Data angle.
The preceding is a guest post from Alex Balan, is a Marketing Specialist for 123ContactForm, the web form and survey builder.