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  • Paul Alexander

Data dilemma: Can you have too much?

Updated: Mar 21

Data, so we’re constantly told, is the new gold dust.

It’s true to the degree that, if used correctly, it has the potential to transform companies’ working practices and, ultimately, their financial fortunes too.

However, speaking to peers, partners and clients in the recent past and the dust most likely to gather isn’t of a golden hue but the sort which accumulates in store room on top of boxes of spreadsheets which no-one can quite work out what to do with.

I’ve recently been asked to write an article for Computing, the UK’s leading magazine for some of the technology industry’s decision makers, about how firms might best capitalise on the insight which lots of data represents.

As I was composing my thoughts on the topic, I realised that there is a general perception that more data must be better than not enough.

Even so, it comes as something of a shock to many businesses to learn that they can achieve more by concentrating on a small number of KPIs than being lost in the digital blizzard created by having too many.

Computing seems to agree, having decided that the situation possibly amounts to an ‘Embarrassment of riches’ (read it here).

Companies which will arguably progress most or most quickly are those which are most able to reduce this mass of data to its bare essentials, make that common sense understandable by all departments and hasten the lessons which it represents to those in sales rooms or on shop floors who can make most use of it.

Despite the huge differences in technology over the last 200 years, it’s a point which would have been as readily apparent to Charles Darwin as it should be to a Chief Data Officer.

Dinosaurs were, after all, overtaken in the evolution race by creatures more nimble and quicker - both of thought and foot - than they were.

Thankfully, we can only ponder on what difference might have been made had Tyrannosaurus been able to call on a few terabytes of computing power and the input from his fellow giant carnivores.

Read the article here in the latest edition of Computing. (

Too few people are trained to deal with data



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