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Do We Really Need More Data?


Stephen Few had another of his great posts on his Visual Business Intelligence blog – Do We Really Need More Data?. Stephen’s posts are always worth readingg – I highly recommend the blog – and this one prompted me to comment and I thought I would reproduce the comment here.

I see this problem regularly, albeit from a slightly different perspective. I often come across organizations that insist they need to gather more data, clean it more thoroughly or integrate it more tightly before they can do anything else. Yet they have not thought about the decisions they are trying to make with that data. When they do, they sometimes realize that they have all the data they need for that decision or that cleaning the data better won’t improve the decision making. Often they discover that the data they need to improve the decision is not the data they were going to collect or clean or integrate. Sometimes what is needed to make better decisions is not even data, but a better understanding of regulations or policies.

This “data-first” attitude does not help organizations – unless they understand the decisions they are making, how they are making them and, as you say, what their mental models/unspoken rules might be they will never improve performance.