Access to public (open) data is easier than ever before, and businesses can certainly use it to their advantage. The downside of this accessibility, however, is the sheer volume of data available. Trying to handle that much information and statistics can be overwhelming, especially to those in a small-to-medium sized business. It can be difficult to know where to even begin the analysis. The temptation can be to gather as much information as possible (“data hoarding”), and then try to assess its value later as it relates to your particular business. However, this may leave a business drowning in information that is either irrelevant entirely, or relevant, but not useful. So, rather than attempting to gather as much data as possible, only to spend vast amounts of time and money sifting through it all to find what is useful, perhaps businesses should take a different approach.
The first thing a business can do to reduce this problem is to try using a deep data framework, which is identifying the most useful sources and maximizing a smaller number of information-rich streams rather than gathering information from many different sources. Once you figure out which sources of information are most closely related to your business and provide the most and most accurate information, you can skip looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack” in other sources that are only slightly related to what your company does.
Figure out what purpose you want your data to serve, and then gather the information, rather than the other way around. This goal needs to include time parameters as well. Some businesses need some historical data to predict future patterns, while others require data that is current and up to date. Making sure that the data being collected fits in to the necessary time span can also greatly reduce the amount that needs to be collected. For example, if weather is a factor in your business, it makes more sense to gather data from the previous year during the current month than it does to gather data from the previous three months of the current year.
Finally, the amount of data being gathered can be limited by location or type of business, or both. While data can be very useful in assessing the market for your business as well as the competition, looking at every business in the area regardless of type, or looking at too large an area’s market for your field, can be not only overwhelming but also misleading. Try to target your data search to your particular line of business and your particular business’s reach. This can help save time and money, and help you get the most out of the data you are collecting.
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