And the reason is that the kitchen is where the trash can is.
Let’s quickly walk through the process of sorting through our daily mail, or my personal process anyhow. First, you set aside the packages – usually good stuff in there. Any personal letters (do people still write letters?) and cards also immediately catch your eye and get special attention. Bills and other official looking pieces get their due and go into their own separate pile for further evaluation and action. Magazines go wherever it is that magazines go, the junk goes in the trash, leaving you with the occasional, “What is this?”
With the sorting over, next comes opening each remaining piece to assess its importance. Is that item from your insurance company a bill, or a change to policy terms and conditions, one of those mysterious, ‘we just changed your monthly premium again for no apparent reason’ statements, or just a marketing piece disguised as official business?
The last step is the filing. Updated policy statements go into the “Insurance” folder, bills go into the “Bills to be paid” tray, birthday cards get displayed on the counter, and on second thought, that gardening tools catalog can go right into the trash too – what was I thinking?
It’s a fairly standard process: Sort it; Score it, Store it.
We do the same with our email inbox, and not just more rapidly either - sometimes we have “rules” that do some initial sorting depending on the source, with some items going into a specific subject folder, while others are funneled directly to SPAM/Quarantine, and not to forget the ever handy DELETE without reading option. For the ones deemed worth a read, if they are going to be important in the future for action or reference, they, and/or their attachments, get filed in any number of locations using a very clever filing system that you’ve now forgotten (“should I file this under the customer name, the product name, or both?”). Then there are the more ambiguous messages and documents that require more thought (before you delete them). I have TEMP READ and TEMP FILE folders, you know, for later, when I have more time to better evaluate the document, supposing of course that “later” ever comes.
A lot like what you do at home, but at ten times the volume, and with a little automated help that your postman/woman would get themselves fired for. Sort it, Score it, Store it.
Multiply all that by a factor of 1012 and you’ve got your enterprise data. Seeing as you can now buy a 1 TB flash drive (a bit pricey, but nonetheless available on the market) I’m going to skip over the “Store it” issue, and get right to the first two steps – sort and score.
How do you sort your mail, electronic or otherwise? You use your brain. Brains are quite good at these types of tasks. Your brain has developed rules to follow and patterns to look for that have proven to have paid off in the past. Your brain is a walking, talking, sorting and scoring machine extraordinaire. Just not terribly efficient at terabyte scales.
For that, we have analytics and information management; Text analytics and social media analytics and descriptive analytics and visual analytics. They do the same sorting, scoring, pattern-seeking and rules-based tasks that your brain does but millions of times faster and without all the personal drama and bias (and they learn faster too, no disrespect intended).
Now, let me ask you – you don’t personally just STORE stuff without sorting and scoring it, do you? Okay, let me rephrase that – except for that big pile on the corner of your desk, you don’t just store it, do you? No, you don’t, you can’t. You cannot run a business on, “I know it’s in there somewhere – I saw it about halfway down the stack just a week ago”. But the truth is, we often do run our businesses this way. We store everything now, because storage has gotten so cheap, and call it Big Data. And then we launch an initiative to deal with our Big Data problem.
Instead, how about nipping that problem in the bud by performing sorting and scoring analysis on the front end as the data comes in? Weight it, label and classify it, tag it, attribute it, compare it, contrast it, correlate it.
Sort it. Score it.
And dare I say – trash some of it. Focus on what’s important, and don’t let volume sneak in there as an unjustified proxy for “important”.