Data is Information which leads to knowledge if analyzed properly
Posted by decipherinfosys on June 13, 2009
Maybe, we are biased since all of us at Decipher consider ourselves to be data people. What do we mean by that? Are only database developers and DBA’s the data people? Not really. A data person is anyone who understands the data, their relationships, their patterns and can glean meaningful and useful information out of the vast amount of data that we are faced with everyday and can make good business use out of it. This could be an IT person, a business person or a person in any field of study. Key thing to understand is that data leads to information, information leads to patterns that if analyzed properly lead to knowledge and that helps in finalizing how to make use of that knowledge to help improve the business processes and the technical solutions to solve the business issues.
In many of our consulting engagements, we have seen that this inherent understanding of the data is missing. People get too much caught up in the technology side of things without trying to understand the underlying data that builds their system(s). As a result of that, they end up designing and developing systems which either are below the actual performance levels that they can really achieve or end up not gleaning all the useful information out of that data set(s). The same is true with the business folks – just writing specifications and business/process flows without properly understanding the data and their relationships is not a savvy thing to do. All this becomes even more complicated in companies which use outsourcing companies from seven seas across. A clear communication channel talking about business flows and analysis in terms of the raw data is very critical and that is why we think that having good data people in your team/projects is a key to any successful project.
One of the best articles out there which explains these different concepts of Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom is an article by systems-thinking.org. You can access it here:
It is a great read.
Now, while having a discussion on this topic with one of our client teams the other day, they were trying to see how they can integrate twitter or yammer into their corporate offices. This is a client with offfices in many counteries and wanted to harness the power of the micro-blogging platforms to help collaboration between the different teams within the same company as well as use it for customer service as well. They are not the first ones to do that of course. Companies like JetBlue, Zappos, Alcatel-Lucent and many others are infact using these social networking tools for a better collaboration between their teams as well as with their customers.
In addition, all this data that is available in these tweets/yams which can help provide meaningful business insights to these companies. Internet is of course the biggest database of all – per Alexa, there are over 18 million sites and more keep getting added everyday. Couple that with the micro-blogs, the SMS, videos etc. and you have a sea of information with many data points floating around which do have relationships with each other. Take this example: A vendor in the US releases a product in the global market, a reputed blogger with mass following sitting in Asia blogs about the product and also uses one of the micro-blogging platform to lambast the product and outlines it’s shortcomings. The vendor is unaware of such pieces of information being available over the net. That story is captured by the analysts, newspapers etc. through a viral network and suddenly the stock for the company plummets. And the vendor does not know why till it starts researching and finds the negative sentiment leading to the issue. It ends up losing money, trust and goodwill in the market because it is too late to respond or counter (or fix) some of the negative sentiments. If the vendor was monitoring the net (not only the search engine based data but more importantly the micro-blogging data), they could have issued an update, mentioned the corrective measures that the company was going to take, addressed some work arounds etc.. Bottom line – they could have used the data in the social media to piece information together to make knowledgable business decisions and hence provide their customers (or critics) with a platform to vent or to their loyal customers an opportunity to help generate new ideas for products or help improve their service. Again, data is information which leads to knowledge (and $$$) if analyzed properly.
When it comes to IT also, the same thing applies – how often have you gotten a call from a customer or from your internal team saying that the performance of a system suddenly went down and they don’t know what to do or even where to start from? Well, do you have some past baseline data? Do you have the trend analysis of that data? Are you capturing and analyzing the data for all the different tiers – co-relating them in order to see what the relationships are between them? If you are, then using this performance baseline system, you would just run another analysis and compare it to the baseline and trends to point out the problem area and then immediately dig into the specifics and find and fix the issue (as well as add it to the existing data set to help improve the analysis for the next time). Individual data points don’t always communicate the story…you need to put the relationships between the different data points in order to look at the picture as a whole. The more prepared you are and the morre you treat your group and your company as a “data” company, the easier it becomes to predict issues and take pro-active measures.
We live in the information age but information becomes knowledge only when you remove the noise and co-relate the different data points.