Data and Information

Difference Between Data and Information
Qualities of a Good Information
The process of Converting Data into Information

2.1. Data and Information
Data

Data is the raw materials from which information is generated. Data are raw facts or observations typically about physical phenomena or business transactions. It appears in the form of text, number, figures or any combination of these. More specifically data are objective measurements of the attributes (the characteristics) of entities (such as people, places, things and events)

According to Laudon and Laudon-

“Streams of raw facts representing events occurring in organizations or the physical environment before they have been organized and arranged into a form that people can understand and use.”

Information

When we process data and convert into a form that is useful and meaningful to the decision maker, it becomes information.

According to James O’Brien-

Information can be defined as data that has been converted into a meaningful and useful context for specific end users. Information is usually subjected to a “value-added” process where-

Its form is aggregated, manipulated and organized.
Its content is analyzed and evaluated, and
It is placed in a proper context for a human user.

So, we should view information as processed data placed in a context that gives it value for specific end users.
Data Information

2.2. Difference between Data and Information

Data

Information

We can define data as “Streams of raw facts representing events occurring in organizations or the physical environment before they have been organized and arranged into a form that people can understand and use”.

Information can be defined as data that has been converted into a meaningful and useful context for specific end users.

Data appears in the form of text, numbers, figures, audio, video, images or any combination of these

After process data into a meaningful form, then data becomes information.

Data may or may not be useful to the decision maker and data must be processed to become useful.

Decision makers use information to make decision.

All data may not become information, because not all data or facts can be relevant at a given moment.

All Information must be based on factual data, but only data that are relevant to the situation are information.

There are many ways to collected data, i.e. surveys, interviews, the use of sensors, the reading of documents and even the monitoring of the brain waves.

Human beings apply facts, principle, knowledge, experience and situation to convert data in to information.

We can compare data as a raw material to produce information.

We can compare information as finished goods.

Data expresses in disorganized and inconsistent way.

Information expresses as an organized and arranged way.

2.3. Qualities of a Good Information

What characteristics make information meaningful and useful to managers? What qualities give it value for end users? One way to answer these important questions is to examine the characteristics or attributes of information quality. Information that is outdated, inaccurate, or hard to understand would not be very meaningful, useful, or valuable to managers. They want information of high quality, that is, information products whose characteristics, attributes, or qualities help make it valuable to them. It is useful to think of information as having the three dimensions of time, content, and form.

Good information has three dimensions of its characteristics or attributes:

Time Dimension
Content Dimension, and
Form Dimension
a. The Time Dimension

Timeliness

:

Information should be provided when it is needed

Currency

:

Information should be up-to-date when it is provided

Frequency

:

Information should be provided as often as needed

Time Period

:

Information can be provided about past, present and future time periods.

Information is frequently time sensitive. Making good decisions in day-to-day living, working, and managing requires information when we need it (Timeliness) as often as we need it (Frequency), and that is up-to-date when we receive it (Currency). That’s why the time dimension of information is so important. Another time dimension attribute that is very important is the time period that the information describes. Information is frequently needed about past, present and future time periods. For example, managers must be provided with information that helps them recognize and evaluate the impact of future trends. It is not enough to provide managers with historical (backward-looking) information and analysis. Future (forward-looking) information and analysis concerning trends developing inside the organization or in the business environment must also be provided. For example, an analysis of past sales performance may not provide management with adequate information. Sales management reports should also provide forecasts of expected trends in sales and in factors that might affect sales performance. Thus, future information is also known as planning information, since it results in forecasts, schedules, budgets, and plans for an organization.

b. The Content Dimension

Accuracy

:

Information should be free from errors.

Relevance

:

Information should be related to the information needs of a specific recipient for a specific situation.

Completeness

:

All the information that is needed should be provided.

Conciseness

:

Only the information that is needed should be provided

Scope

:

Information can have a broad or narrow scope, or an internal or external focus.

Performance

:

Information can reveal performance by measuring activities accomplished, progress made, or resources accumulated.

The content dimension of information is usually considered its most important attribute. Accuracy is a vital attributes, if information is correct but not really related to one’s information needs, then it is not relevant, and not very valuable. Also, even if information is accurate and relevant, it may be inadequate because it is incomplete. Thus, completenessis important, as is conciseness. The tendency of computer-based information systems to flood managers with unnecessary information must be restrained. Information must frequently reveal the performance attained by individuals or organizations. Therefore, information can be provided about the activities accomplished during a specific period, such as last week’s sales results. Or information could be provided about the progress made toward specified objectives or standards.

c. The Form Dimension

Clarity

:

Information should be provided in a form that is easy to understand.

Detail

:

Information can be provided in detail or summary form.

Order

:

Information can be arranged in a predetermined sequence.

Presentation

:

Information can be presented in narrative, numeric, graphic, or other forms.

Media

:

Information can be provided in the form of printed-paper documents, video displays, or other media.

The form dimension of information emphasizes that information must be attractive and easy to understand and use. Information that is unattractive or difficult to understand may not be used properly. So there is a new emphasis on improving information products to make them more attractive and usable for end users. The way information is presented is also vital to its comprehension and use. High-quality information must therefore be properly presented using narrative, numeric, or graphics form of presentation. Recent developments in graphics software, desktop publishing, and multimedia systems like interactive video have made it a lot easier for microcomputer users to present information properly. High-quality information can now be presented in a medium that is easy for people to access, understand, and use in their work activities. That is why video displays have become so popular, voice response system are commonplace, multimedia presentations are growing, and printed reports and documents have been made more attractive for end users.

2.4. The Process of Converting Data into Information

The process of converting data into information may include the following process:

Collection
Classification
Sorting, adding, merging, and so on
Summarizing
Storing
Retrieval
Dissemination

Depending on the task at hand, some or all of the above steps may be required to convert data into information. Let us look at each of these steps.

The first step is to collect data through surveys, interviews, sensors, documents, newspapers, or any other appropriate means. (Data collection can sometimes be a very tedious, time-consuming, and labor-intensive process. Hence managers should carefully assess the time and cost of data collection).

Next, data is classified and stored to arrange it in a meaningful form. For example, data about students can be stored alphabetically, based on their last names, for easy retrieval.

Sometimes the process may include steps other than sorting, such as adding, values, merging files, and so on. When processed data becomes information, it can be condensed and summarized to make it more useful to the decision maker.

The information is then stored carefully for future use. (Without proper storage decision makers may find it difficult to retrieve the information when they need it; also the information may be damaged if it is not properly stored.)

Finally, information must be disseminated or distributed in the right format, at the right time, to the right place, and to the right people if it is to be useful.

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