The strategic use of information gives companies a competitive response capacity that requires the search, management, and analysis of many data from different sources. Among this information, the secondary data have an essential weight when it comes to extracting value for use in research or studies.
Faced with primary information, created expressly for a specific study, the researcher also has secondary data, valid information already developed by other researchers that may be useful for particular research.
Likewise, these data may have been generated previously by the same researchers or, in general, by the same organization that conducts the study or, where appropriate, has commissioned it. That is why, as a general recommendation, the search should start with the internal data.
Regardless of whether they get obtained inside or outside the organization, the primary data generated in an investigation will be considered secondary data. They can get used in others to save time and money, since it would not be feasible to carry them out for obvious budget issues or, just, it is unnecessary because it has already got done.
Internal and external secondary data
Once the search for internal information has to get completed, the researcher should focus on external secondary data sources, ideally following a previous plan that serves as a guide to a large number of sources available today.
Therefore, secondary information can get roughly divided into internal and external secondary data:
- Internal secondary data– information that is available within the company is included, from accounting data or letters from customers or suppliers and vendor reports or surveys from the human resources department to, for example, previous research.
- External secondary data– is data collected by sources external to the company. They can get found in other organizations or companies, such as census data, institutional statistics, government studies, organizations and associations, research and data disseminated in periodicals, in books, on the internet or, for example, the same digital data.
The growing importance of secondary information
Secondary data is more accessible to obtain, relatively inexpensive and available.
Although it is rare for secondary data to provide all the answers to an unusual research problem, such data may be useful for the investigation.
The use of secondary data in research processes is a common practice for years. However, with all this emergence of Big Data and the greater ease of access to different sources of information, its use has gained a strong impetus as a tool of business intelligence, mainly for the following reasons:
- It is easy to access and economical information.
- It serves as a point of comparison of the organizational results with respect to the market.
- It serves to focus and define new organizational projects.
- Allows estimation of quantitative benefits for new organizational projects (ROI)
- It allows estimating future market behavior based on facts and data.
- It facilitates the strategic decision making of organizations.
Among the disadvantages of the secondary data, we find that initially they could be investigated for different purposes to the current problem. It limits the information we can obtain and need for research.
It is likely that the objectives, nature, and methods used to collect the secondary data are not adequate for the present situation. Also, secondary data may be inaccurate or not completely current or reliable. Before using secondary data, it is important to evaluate them concerning such factors.
As a tool of great value, which helps to provide a clear competitive advantage, it is essential that organizations allocate technological and human resources to the establishment of processes aimed at the identification, selection, validation (verification of its accuracy, coherence, and credibility), processing and secondary information analysis.