People often use the terms data and information interchangeably, but I see them as fundamentally different. Data itself is raw, unprocessed facts. It is not aggregated, and therefore lacks context. Information on the other hand is structured, processed, aggregated and synthesized data to provide context.
As we have evolved into the information age, we have collected increasing amounts of data. Our business systems are capable of processing vast amounts of data that can be collected from a multitude of sources. It is this obsession with data collection that forms the foundation for real information and analysis. But in many cases we remain data rich and information poor.
Why is that? I believe that is due to the underinvestment in time and effort to ensure that we have the proper tools to leverage that data to be able to summarize, synthesize and correlate that data into meaningful and actionable information.
How do we bridge that gap? To harness the vast amounts of data, we need the proper tools to help us. We need to have individuals who act as data stewards to ensure that data is properly captured. We need data management tools to assist in keeping all of the facts about our data consistent and relevant. We need Business Intelligence and analytic tools to allow for the processing of the data into actionable information. And we need people in our business to define the data aggregations and correlations that will provide the insight into good decision making.
Information is power. And data is the foundation for that power source.