Strategic Knowledge is More Important than Big Data


March 14th, 2013 : By Anna Griffith :

Art tree fantasyBig data is emerging from every walk of life.  Websites are counting mouse clicks and car manufacturers installing sensors to record seatbelt use.  Financial institutions are tracking credit card swipes and marketing departments are predicting future purchases.

The emergence of Big Data reminds me of the transition from winter to spring in Atlanta, Georgia.  We went from sparse branches to a burgeoning landscape – and lots of pollen – over night.  In the winter the structure of the trees is clear but the abundance of spring is intoxicating.

Ten years ago we had sparse branches of data – relational databases, visual reporting, and user interface design took us a long way towards managing information overload.  Today, the abundance of data can be not only intoxicating but toxic.   There are several key technologies that are being used to address big data – semantic databases, taxonomies, meta data, search, natural language, machine learning, and statistical analytics.  The most frequent and disconcerting criticism I have heard is that Big Data solutions are sometimes used as a substitute for strategic objectives.  It is important to remember that underneath all the data there is a structure – the core trunk of your business and the branches of decision making.

What Does Strategic Knowledge have to do with Big Data?

Data analytic projects that are successful think first about strategic objectives and how data analytics can achieve the objectives.  Will the data analytics help complete a step towards the goal?  What is the goal?

I think we all have a love/hate relationship with search.  I love search.  I really love it when I find what I need to answer a question or solve a problem.  Search is most frustrating when I really don’t know what I am doing or what I need.  For example, I wanted to improve the woodwork in my Victorian home.  I don’t know anything about restoring a home.  I don’t know the process, the products, or even the words to use.  Needless to say, Google didn’t help much.

Take the time to understand the knowledge required to execute your strategy.

A strategy is a way of working towards a goal. We could be planning, designing, monitoring, assessing, predicting, diagnosing, scheduling, explaining, or executing. Technology can guide our situation awareness aides and help choose options and make decisions as we move toward our goals.

When do you need to take the next step to strategic technology?  Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Is expertise required to leverage technology and data as a means of executing your strategy?
  2. Is your expertise more complex than a set of business rules?
  3. Is your business environment changing and you need to adapt as fast as change?
  4. Do you need to integrate strategies from different disciplines in order to execute your strategy?

What is your next objective?

What strategy will you put in place to achieve that objective?  Is it planning, designing?  Who on your team has the expertise to execute the strategy?  Can you accomplish the objective without the expertise?  How will technology supplement the expertise of team members?  How will you share and adapt the expertise over time?

In my next blog, How Good Questions Lead to Knowledge Flow and Action, I continue to discuss knowledge, best practices, and a methodology for helping practitioners conduct the introspection and articulation of their knowledge.

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