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Better world or better shopping?. What records managers need to know about Big data John Davies Head of Business Consulting, Idox PLC 20 April 2013. The backdrop. 1941 “information explosion” 1982 first commercially available laptop 2013 two zettabytes of new data. Think big!.

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Better world or better shopping

Better world or better shopping?

What records managers need to know about Big data

John Davies

Head of Business Consulting, Idox PLC

20 April 2013

The backdrop
The backdrop

  • 1941 “information explosion”

  • 1982 first commercially available laptop

  • 2013 two zettabytes of new data

Think big
Think big!

  • Big Bang (1986)

  • Big Conversation (2003)

  • Big Society (2010)

  • Big Data (1997 but again 2012)

A note on terms
A note on terms

  • Big = certainly better than what came before (but always described rather vaguely)

  • Data = anything digital however apparently insignificant

  • Open = data someone has decided can be transparent

Big data and profit
Big Data and profit

  • Big Business understands Big Data

    • Imagination

    • Clever analytics

    • Good marketing

    • Customer engagement

    • Increased sales and market share

  • Have you got your Tesco Club Card with you?

Big data and the world
Big Data and the world

  • Governments and NGOs are studying Big Data

    • Scale and context are critical

    • Will they go beyond the hype?

    • Want to move beyond Open Data

    • Transparency is key but not enough

    • Improve ways of helping

    • Feedback loop into policy

  • Aid funds not loyalty cards

Big data in international action
Big data in international action

  • Data on 18 countries used to prompt a rethink of food policy

  • Prevailing wisdom demands food grains as protection from starvation

  • Data reveals that the poor are not desperately striving for more calories

  • From the data the real problem emerges

    • people are not literally starving, but their diets are not nearly sufficiently nutritiousso…

  • Don’t supply more staples like rice, noodles or wheat but provide or subsidize more nutritious foods.

Big data roles some new some not
Big Data roles – some new, some not

  • McKinsey highlighted shortage of data analysts early in 2012

    • For new entrants to the field

    • New university courses are needed

    • New staff essential to make the best of Big Data

The evangelist
The evangelist

The new availability of huge amounts of data, along with the statistical tools to crunch these numbers, offers a whole new way of understanding the world. Correlation supersedes causation, and science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all.

Chris Anderson, 2008

The humanist
The humanist

  • Data-driven predictions can succeed — and they can fail. It is when we deny our role in the process that the odds of failure rise. Before we demand more of our data, we need to demand more of ourselves.

    • Nate Silver, 2012

  • Big data needs big judgement

Data scientist sexiest job in the c 21 st
Data scientist: sexiest job in the c. 21st

  • HBR article in October 2012

  • Highlights global shortage of data scientists

  • Emphasises the high cost of employment

  • Lists the companies who are leading the field

  • Lists the many universities teaching it or planning to

The big data monitor
The Big Data monitor

  • New professional role: impartial and confidential

  • Expert in computer science, maths and statistics

  • Reviewers of big-data analyses and predictions

  • Evaluates the selection of data sources, the choice of tools, algorithms and models, and the interpretation of results

  • Resolves disputes

The records manager
The records manager

  • Dual allegiance

  • Upholder of Freedom of Information and Data Protection rights

  • Discovery co-ordinator

  • Housekeeper

  • Conscience

And so records managers and big data
And so...records managers and Big Data

  • What must records managers do?

  • What good records managers do.

  • Nothing more, nothing less

  • Discovery

  • Sense making

  • Action

1 discovery
1. Discovery

  • What is going on here? Why are we doing it?

  • What’s the purpose, background, scope, and context of this Big Data activity?

  • Who’s ultimately responsible for the project?

  • What data are being used for this Big Data activity? Are new data being generated?

  • Where and how is the data being processed and stored? Is it being shared or sold on?

  • How long will any new data be held?

2 sense making
2. Sense making

  • Are new records or a new class of records being created that need to be “managed”?

  • Is this a new entry on a corporate Information Assets Register?

  • Do you envisage any regulatory or legal issues? Has this aspect been fully checked out?

3 action
3. Action

  • You may need to alert someone(s) about a new regulatory or legal risk/issue

  • You may need to make new entries in the IAR or retention schedule

  • You should keep up with developments in this area in your organisation.


  • We will all be drawn into the world of Big Data whether we like it or not

  • Commercial use will hopefully be matched by more socially beneficial uses by governments and NGOs

  • Big Data will require some new roles for governance if we are not to manipulated by black box technology

  • Records managers must do their jobs well in order to make sure these new data are properly managed