Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

May 2017

Is there no room for “little data” on a boardroom agenda?

Big data is to global warming what little data is to the weather forecast. So, what do you think leads the directors’ meeting? I’m thinking year-over-year comparisons with a lot of discussion about order backlogs and current competitive evaluations. Next up, new products — first our new products then suppliers’ new products. Last, a bit of gossip, maybe a joke, and our compensation status, of course.

Regardless of what industry I was employed in there was something equivalent to S&P average to compare your biz’s performance to. Household formations, oil prices, snowfalls, inflation, hot war, cold war, tuition rates, birth rates, marginal tax rates, inventory valuation ...

Yeah, inventory valuation, because inventory value is an art, not a science. Commodities are all LIFO (last in, first out) really, but future values force producers to use NIFO (next in, first out). Probably, little general store owners have learned the hard way to put new labels on the coffee cans to ensure they’ll be able to replace old inventory at new rising prices from current sales revenue. If they’re not quick enough they could be paying four bucks to replace the can they just sold for three.

Presumably, big data follows coffee prices from Juan Valdez to the Jericho Country Store and tells Wal-Mart what price it should loss-lead Maxwell House. Question: Have you ever been to a supermarket where the milk is at the front of the store?

Anyway, here’s a quick recap of data: Bit, nibble, byte: 1 bit, 4 bits to a nibble, 2 nibbles to a byte. There are 256 possible values to a byte, which is to say 11111111 in binary equals 256. Skipping right along, a kilobyte is 1,000 bytes, then gigabyte, terabyte, petabyte, exabyte, zettabyte, yottabyte — you get the picture? A kilobyte holds maybe a few paragraphs while a terabyte can hold four million-plus books. Big data check out, I don’t know, like millions of terabytes.

Finally, the extra point: Paul likes Diet Coke, John likes hi-test Pepsi. John took over Paul’s apartment and Paul gave John his supermarket loyalty card. Did big data flag that?