can make a big impact, Mr. Verkasalo says. For instance, organizations often
miss the small, targeted data that helps determine how customers actually use
their products, he says.
“How many times did he or she log in to the service in one day? What
device were they using? For how long? All these bits of small data can add up
to a much larger picture that, in turn, can inform better product and business
decisions,” he says.
By relying on this targeted data, organizations that have limited resources still
can realize the benefits of analytics without committing to a major investment.
This approach lets them sidestep big data’s potential to overwhelm, distract and
drain budgets and resources, Mr. Verkasalo says.
For instance, IssueLab is a New York, New York, USA-based organization
that collects case studies, white papers and other research generated by foundations around the world. In 2015, the organization ran a targeted one-year data
project that cost roughly US$200,000 to make all the materials in its 18,000-doc-
ument catalog more searchable. The project leveraged a software program that
relies on titles, topics keywords and secondary themes to better organize all
materials. The result was a search engine that is both better at locating relevant
content and at filtering out off-topic research.
“We had a mess—an enormous and overwhelming hairball of information,”
says Gabi Fitz, director of knowledge management initiatives for IssueLab’s New
York-based parent organization the Foundation Center. “We recognized that if
users are overwhelmed by the amount of information that’s presented, then it’s
a mistake to say they have genuine access to that information.”
While big data requires organizations to sift through large buckets of infor-
“Companies large and small struggle to use big data for
business benefit. Even those organizations with vast
amounts of data available are not finding it easy to
aggregate, analyze, quantify, populate or derive metrics
that provide actionable insights for decision-making.”
—Hannu Verkasalo, PhD, Verto Analytics, Espoo, Finland
of organizations that use big
data say it has been more
expensive than they expected.