In this article, Big Data Overload: Why Most Companies Can't Deal With The Data Explosion, Bernard Marr says that "it's all very well collecting data, but what are you going to do with it once you've got it?" If you can't analyse your data, there's not much point in having it.

That's where smart data comes in. 

Marr writes: "Without a smart plan of action to use the data to produce business insights, the data itself becomes a white elephant — expensive and useless."

That's why you need to work out what you want to know, and ask the right questions, before you start collecting data. 

A good place to start is the classic set of questions, "Who, What, Why, Where, How?"

Don't get left behind

In the supply chain, as in most traditional businesses, the first step in being able to get big data is by making sure you're tracking the right things, and then pulling that information together in a way that it can be analysed. If all the data lives in disparate systems or worse, isn't even in systems at all - but is all being dealt with manually, then it's time to automate your business processes. Not only can you then ensure that you are easily collecting data; you also have the power to be able to manage exceptions, audit your transactions, and analyse the types of transaction processed.

This data gives you the potential for visibility which, in turn, allows you to make better business decisions based on actual events - and use these historical events to predict future occurrences.

If the data's there, you've got to bring it together. Like the title says: you've got to use it, or you'll lose it, and your company's ability to act on it in a timely way.