Why small data is as important as big data

Whilst many of us were soaking up the welcome rays of summer sun over the long weekend it is likely that a nefarious group of individuals were taking advantage of the holiday to breach the security of some of the UK’s largest firms. Statistics show that there is a correlation between national holidays and hacking attempts. Data breaches are on the rise and efforts to stem the stream of high profile hacks are also increasing.  For example, last week consultancy giant PwC announced that it would be recruiting over 1,000 new cyber security specialists to beef up its data security expertise.

The digital data protection experts will join the PwC Risk Assurance team and cover all industry sectors, data management, business systems and IT risks. Demand for this type of consultancy is high as increased regulatory scrutiny on technological risks and cyber crime is coming to the fore. It’s unsurprising therefore; that Harvard Business Review recently declared data scientists to be the sexiest job of the century and Gartner predicts that big data jobs will be the fastest growing category over the next 10 years.

With the title ‘big’ data hit the highlife and headlines. Admittedly, small data doesn’t have the pulling power of its more glamourous big data cousin - for example Talk Talk’s customer database eroding at a rate of two per cent per month won’t generate the same amount of media interest as 157,000 Talk Talk customers having their personal details stolen. Nor will sending direct mail to people that have moved house cause the share price to drop by 30 per cent.  But, small data, particularly customer data, does have a significant business impact. For example our research found that sending direct mail to people that have passed away costs UK business £328 million every year. A similar figure applies to targeting home movers. Ultimately, poor data hygiene has associated costs and these will grow in two years’ time after the introduction of GDPR which sees increased sanctions for irresponsible marketing.

The good news is that to get customer data under control you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of pounds with the Big 4. In the grand scheme of business expense a modest investment provides maximum returns. This is why we believe that small data is just as important as big data.