Marie Kondo’s advice about keeping only things that “spark joy” has a great deal of relevance for today’s data managers. Not all data is equally important and the costs of hoarding unproductive data can be quite substantial.

Ian Matthews elaborates on why more data is not necessarily better than less in this article published in the Computer Business Review:

Businesses are waking up to the concept of “data capital”: that the information they hold is one of the most important determinants of their future success. Many, however, still labour under the delusion that more data means more value, as if each megabyte added to their bottom line. Wise organisations know that information has no intrinsic worth. Instead, it’s what each unit of data can do for you that makes it valuable – or, to paraphrase Ms Kondo: “Does your data spark joy?”

Too often, the answer is a resounding “no”. McKinsey found that businesses typically “leak” about 90 per cent of the potential value that analytics ought to deliver. The most important element of any analytics programme is taking the right actions from the insight provided. Data is obviously one of the key inputs to get the right insights and make good decisions. But businesses cannot ignore the importance of taking the right action from this insight and articulating the right use case and desired outcome to direct that action. It’s easy then to see that true insight is not about data volume, but having the right data to make informed decisions.

Gathering data is easy, but too much or the wrong sort of data can have grievous effects on an organisation’s ability to extract value. Like the hoarder whose house is cluttered with items “just in case they’re useful”, businesses risk piling up unnecessary information in various siloes, creating impenetrable data swamps and potentially damaging data protection risks – not to mention the cost of storing the stuff.

Businesses should therefore beware of analytics vendors whose whole pitch is based on pulling together data from an almost infinite number of sources, as if this were a goal in itself. As we’ve seen, this approach more often than not results in negative ROI while creating little or no useful insight.