Big Data’s Weakest Link

When Big Data Backfires: Garbage in, Garbage out

This is the year of big data, right?

Not unlike the use of “aspirational” imagery in fashion magazines making us feel less than, so goes the blubbering on about how big data is changing the world and if you’re not on the bandwagon you’re probably too far behind to ever catch up.

They tell us the story of Target and how they knew a young customer was pregnant before she even did. They tell us the story of how the ultimate big box retailer moves inventory from store to store daily to meet demands of different markets.

Some is real, some is not, just like the Photoshopped models in the fashion magazines. The real ones are unhealthy, the faked ones are pretending to play catch up in a race that doesn’t exist.

Know thy audience, and think. Count with me, how many times have I said this? How many more will I have to? How many more JC Penney fiascoes where they took data and thought they had a good way to use it, only to trash the brand beyond recognition?

A typo thwarted tracking in a government system. A slight lapse in communication and sharing of data didn’t connect the dots. Get data wrong and people get hurt. Get data right and people get hurt.

Data is a tool to help towards understanding. If you don’t have the team to think you shouldn’t use it, because it will backfire.

Think of data as a big gun. It can protect you. It can save you. But it can misfire. And the recoil can sting.