There is more data available now than ever before. Indeed, the amount of online data doubles every two years. That means in 2017 the amount of data in the world will be twice what it is today. It took thousands of years for the amount of information to double to the volume we had just five years ago. We don’t live in exponential times – it is worse than that. The volume of data is in “vertical take off”, just shooting up in what appears to be a never-ending rise.
The problem for business is that the ever-increasing amount of data just means more work. And more work. And yet more work. This is hitting productivity; there appears to be a link between digital data usage and productivity. Countries with the most ardent usage of technology are becoming less productive than countries that are not so digitally entrenched. It is possible that the vast amount of data collection and checking that is being done in high-tech nations is a potential time-waster. Far from making us more capable, vast amounts of data are potentially paralysing business.
Of course, that is just one theory. There is no denying, however, that the more data a business can collect and process, the more it can improve. Amazon, for instance, is well-known for being completely data-centric and using vast amounts of “Big Data” to help understand its customers even better.
The real issue is how we deal with the vast volume of valuable information. If the material is not easily accessible or understandable, it takes us longer to process it mentally and think about it.
One of the key reasons many businesses feel submerged by data is because they do not have adequate systems for presenting that data so that it is easily consumed by human beings.
As the BigStep blog on big data points out the problem is confounded by reducing attention spans, making us all more demanding that data is “instant”. This suggests that there is a need for the increased intelligent use of graphical presentation of data so that it is quickly understandable. It also means greater categorisation – our brains attempt subconsciously to categorise everything, so the more categories you have for data, the more easily understandable it becomes.
There are no simple answers to how we can cope with ever increasing amounts of data. But if your business is not to be paralysed by the dramatic surge you need to think about how your staff will interact with the ever-increasing amount of data. If you don’t, your productivity will inevitably suffer as people struggle to deal with the data they are expected to process.