How the integrated enterprise shifts us from Big Data to Small and Wide Data


In perusing Gartner’s Top 10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2021 it struck me that the most important meta-theme was integration.

The last decades of enterprise technology could be viewed as shifting from monolithic – and in large organizations almost inevitably siloed – computing to richly integrated platforms, though that journey is far from complete in most companies.

The relatively recent focus on the value of data brought attention to burgeoning troves of information in specific domains, notably customer behaviour as well as operations, with business cases built on demonstrable ROI from analytics.

As data fabrics and other enterprise integration tools enable us to access and graph the full range of data available, that changes the nature of how we think about data.

Big Data is about sheer size, and often on depth, in gathering a stupendous amount of data in specific domains. Unfortunately the focus has often been on the technologies that enable that size rather than what can be derived from that scope.

The concept of ‘Small and Wide Data’ is about diverse inputs, taking disparate sources and learning from them and their correlations without necessarily requiring the brute force of size.

It is about a more subtle and intelligent approach to data, gleaning value without requiring oceans, potentially applying unsupervised learning and other techniques to identify emergent and unexpected insights.

This requires a richly integrated enterprise. But it also based on open, enquiring perspectives, needed executives to thinking beyond optimizing existing processes.

The path forward for the best organizations will be better characterized by Small and Wide Data than by Big Data.