Using Data Governance to Maximize the Potential of Information from Big and Little Data

Robyn Stambaugh
VP, HIM Services

The terms “Big Data” and “Little Data” are sources of much conversation in the Information Age. Everything that we do on our smart phones, computers, social media sites, wearable devices (i.e. Fitbit), etc., generates data. Exponential accumulation of data is certain based upon the rapid pace of development, prevalence, and dependence on technology in all aspects of our lives. Given technology’s trajectory, it doesn’t appear that the data explosion will slow down anytime soon.

What is “Big Data” and “Little Data”? What is essential to create an environment that provides a pathway for data to have integrity, high impact, and a comprehensive system for its strategic management, whether it is big or small?


Big Data is defined by the five characteristics below:

    • - Volume – Copious amounts of data generated from numerous sources. According to Forbes, “big data continues to grow at a rapid rate; by 2020, 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the plant.” Forbes (2015) Systems require expansions and upgrades to handle the amount of data being captured and transmitted. Organizations must be cognizant of the cost to store and manage copious amounts of data.
    • - Velocity – Intensity and frequency in which the data is generated. The ability to be able to navigate successfully through the generation of voluminous streams of data coming out of the proverbial “fire hose” requires deft interpretation and action.
    • - Variety – Data exists in many forms such as texts, emails, document images, audio and video clips, as well as structured and unstructured data. Unstructured data creates many challenges for healthcare professionals to convert it into a useable format for processing, analytics, and information for informed decision making.
    • - Veracity – Data being generated, captured, and used must be trustworthy. Accuracy of data is essential and informed decisions depend on it. If the data is not reliable, it is not usable; without integrity, there is no value.
    • - Value – Determination of the worth of data which allows for actionable business insight. The exponential growth rate of data demonstrates the need to have a methodology for assigning value; the measure of value should be predicated on its usability. Does it provide a clinical, financial, or administrative value that aligns with the strategic goals of the organization?


According to industry expert TechTarget, “Little or small data are more selective pieces of information that relate to a certain topic and can help answer a specific pain point.” TechTarget (2014)

In contrast to Big Data, this type of data comes in a format and volume that makes it easier to access, is more informative, and actionable. (TechTarget, 2016) Small data provides nuggets of data that allow for meaningful insights to be derived from big data, organized and packaged in a manner that creates actionable insight. (Small Data Group, 2014) As a complement to big data, small data allows for specific focus on a pain point(s), i.e., key performance indicators.


Healthcare organizations, in particular, are inundated with an inordinate amount of data. Using Data Governance (DG) to manage critical data assets within the framework of Information Governance allows healthcare organizations to leverage those assets in a meaningful manner at the enterprise level. Whether the data is big or small becomes irrelevant if the data at its foundation lacks integrity. DG provides a pathway to manage the specifics of data across the organization. It supplies the infrastructure to support data integrity and ensures data quality is present.

In today’s marketplace those healthcare entities that possess the ability to leverage trustworthy data with real time agility will differentiate themselves.




Small Data Group. (2017, June 7). Small Data 101- A Resource Guide for Data-driven Innovation. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Tech Target. 2014.