A rose by any other name may smell as sweet but data masquerading as information stinks!
The confusion between data and information is undoubtedly one of the main reasons that organisations fail to establish effective information systems; because people don’t always recognise that data is actually a precursor of information.
Why do so many people still confuse data with information? Not a day goes by without hearing or reading about people talking about data and information as if the two words are completely interchangable. I am convinced that this confusion is a major cause of the Trillion Dollar Bonfire.
information is created, not handed to us on a plate
Data is all around us, unsurprisingly. The term data can be interpreted to mean “what is given” and that meaning should be a clear signal that data is not simply a synonym for information.
We need to understand that Information is always created by people attributing meanings to data; the necessary “meanings” being derived through a complex application of personal and collective cognitive filters to raw data, in conjunction with contextual data which facilitates our information creation processes.
At the fundamental level we need to make sure that our information systems [sic] are built on firm foundations, especially when it comes to the information creation process.
Some of the information creation process is inevitably derived subconsciously but an effective information system for an organisation needs more than gut-feelings, intuition and experience; it needs a formal information definition process that complements data processing with metadata (meanings and context).
How can we do this? Well here are a couple of simple but useful formulae to consider:
Information ≠ Data
Data + Metadata = Information