Realising value out of Big Data through small data



Advances in Project Management Series

By Roel Wolfert & Roger Davies

Managing Partners @ VGrip

The Netherlands & United Kingdom



The purpose of this article is to show how small data can be employed to realise the full value creating power of Big Data using Value Management, the targeting, timing and alignment of change programmes to optimise stakeholder value.

One of the hot topics creating a great deal of hype at the moment is Big Data. Many people talk about it, work on projects related to it and attend sold out conferences on the subject. However, there is one question omitted from most discussion on the subject, how much value is Big Data actually adding to businesses? This paper proposes a proven approach, using Value Management to realise extraordinary value from Big Data by directing how it is applied using precisely targeted small data. We first define Big Data and articulate some of the common criticisms associated with it. We then separate the ‘follow the herd’ approach to adopting Big Data with the real challenges of exploiting the potential effectively. Finally, we explain the power of merging small data with Big Data in the context of stakeholder value creation.

Definition and Use of Big Data

We need to start by defining Big Data. According to Gartner, Big Data refers to high volume, high velocity, and/or high variety information assets that require new forms of processing to enable enhanced decision making, insight discovery and process optimisation. In a broader social perspective, Big Data refers to the idea that society can do things with a large body of data that that weren’t possible when working with smaller amounts. Taking a more focused business view, Big Data is essentially used for two main purposes, internal operational performance and external customer knowledge, which fall under the general area of Business Intelligence.

Internal Operational Performance, like production measures, stock measures and sales forecasting involves capturing and analysing data relating to processes within the business, with the aim of making better decisions. This is generally done via a data warehouse solution. Most viable enterprises have some kind of business performance framework, such as a Balanced Scorecard (BSC) with measures, often referred to as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The BSC intends to provide a coherent view, thus the ‘balanced’ view of performance across the business so that the various functions, processes and roles can be aligned to achieve a defined vision.

Customer Knowledge, like loyalty information or behavioural information refers to data relating to customer behaviour with the objective of generating greater value for both customers, by matching products and services to their needs, and for the business through sales revenue and profit.

Traditionally data produced from advances in ICT have focused on ever more detailed reports on how the business has performed in the past. This is highly valuable for determining what has accounted for the current performance status, drilling down into the data to diagnose and correct specific issues and rolling up to provide an overview for reporting purposes.

Thus, these reports provide clues as to how businesses can improve their performance. However, the question remains whether Big Data delivers on the promises it makes, the additional value it supposedly brings?

So we need to ask a more searching, precise question: what additional value does the insight derived from Big Data, enable us to create? In order to answer this question, we need to know the capabilities and limitations of Big Data so that we can set our expectations and exploit the power of Big Data safely and effectively and thus create additional value.


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Editor’s note: The Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower in the UK. Information about the Gower series can be found at http://www.gowerpublishing.com/advancesinprojectmanagement.


About the Authors


pmwj36-Jul2015-Wolfert-WOLFERTRoel Wolfert

The Netherlands



Roel Wolfert
is a change leader, strategist, innovator and senior international executive with more than 20 years of experience in disruptive innovation and strategic change. He’s specialised in finding, creating and delivering measurable value to organizations. Roel enjoys helping organizations and executives to make a ‘turn around’ in their business (models) and a mind shift in their thinking and acting. Roel is an investor, entrepreneur, lecturer and performance coach. He is co-founder of VGrip and works on projects across different industries in Europe, whilst also guest lecturing in Value Management at HZ University of applied sciences.


pmwj36-Jul2015-Wolfert-DAVIESRoger Davies

United Kingdom



Roger Davies
is consultant, trainer, author and speaker with 35 years’ experience in transformational change. A Chartered Engineer, he began his career in manufacturing and, as a Chief Engineer with Plessey, led major Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) programmes, the learning from which he integrated into Value Management as his Master of Business Administration thesis. He subsequently grew the value proposition for several large management consultancies, applying it across virtually every sector, both private and public, before founding Impact Dynamics in 2002 and, more recently, co-founding VGrip, a thought leadership company in Value Management. Roger is a Master Practitioner in NLP and provides Breakthrough Coaching. Currently, he is undertaking doctoral research in Value Management with the University of Bristol.