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Why Detailed Data Is As Important As Big Data

The increasing ability for companies to get transaction-level, detail-level data–click stream data versus summary data–presents huge opportunity, says Boston College’s Sam Ransbotham. Big data gets all the press these days, but as important and perhaps even more important is detailed data.
Detailed detail gives companies “the opportunity to try to figure out the ways that, say, customers, differ,” he says. And that’s not just demographically, but in their behavior. “By observing detailed transactional level of their data, we can actually find much more interesting things than we can by lumping them into demographic groups.”
Ransbotham’s primary research interests are in security and risk, but that led him to analytics. “What really sparked my interest is how do you make sense of that much data, since detection system logs have data in huge numbers, the billions of records category. How do you spot trends and how do you figure out what’s going on in those trends?” His research also now encompasses what he calls “more positive areas” of customer service and customer reviews and how those things are being used in marketing.
In a conversation with David Kiron, executive editor of Innovation Hubs at MIT Sloan Management Review, Ransbotham explains why detailed data can tell companies not just why someone did something but why they didn’t do something else, how hospitals don’t seem to face heightened malpractice risks when they install electronic medical records and what companies should and should not be worried about when their customers fire off real-time comments on Twitter.

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