Blog > September 2020 > Information vs. Data

Information vs. Data

Two decades ago, I was a business analyst newly transitioned to IT for the implementation of an Enterprise Data Warehouse. My first task was to create and manage a SQL database containing definitions and formats of new fields.

This side project was my very wise boss’s way of getting the finance team to stop interrupting our data warehouse team’s deliverables with urgent meetings to resolve questions like "these numbers are incorrect,” “where did they come from” and “how do I find better data for this report"? Little did I know, my entire career would be centered around providing information about data to many of the world’s largest enterprises.

Information is a VERB not a NOUN

In a recent data science podcast, IBM's Making Data Simple (shout out to Al Martin - I am a faithful listener!), the listeners were reminded that ‘information’ is a VERB not a NOUN. Information is the action.  Data is the noun.

Al's guest, Peter Wang, CEO of Anaconda, summarized the current data landscape well. He said that although organizations have become much more efficient at gathering and distributing reams of data, this achievement hasn’t necessarily resulted in smarter decision-making.  Much of the data is unreliable, of poor quality or not well-understood. As a result, data scientists are still spending most of their time on data wrangling or investigating the data’s trustworthiness, instead of analyzing the data to glean strategic insights. Information is the "act of making sense" and without it, data is just a noun with no meaning.

The new world of data intelligence, data catalogs and data governance is evolving to produce more intelligent Information Management than ever before. The chasm of "too much effort for not enough value" has been broken with automation and AI; however, if not architected and structured mindfully, the deluge of "metadata" will occur in this environment as well.

Data dictionaries, data lineage, business glossaries and other business assets are abundantly available, but until the head is connected to the body (business and technical), it is similar to a data dump.   These business assets provide the semantic meaning and context to the technical data and that’s when it becomes information that drives improved business outcomes.

Make your data sing and dance!

Understanding and trusting the results of the data insights has everything to do with immediate and full transparency of the information. We don't want to go through the effort of scanning terabytes of metadata or completing a lineage effort because it's cool or mandated for one regulatory requirement. We need to use the information to make the data sing and dance!

Information brings knowledge and with "comprehensive" knowledge you will produce wisdom. Embedding this wisdom into business results will enable data to be trusted, protected and shared intelligently throughout the organization. If a lineage chain is viewed as an "information supply chain" for delivering value to your data, you will amplify your results well beyond compliance.

Information about your data is critical

Information about your data is just as critical—or dare I say more critical—than the data itself.  Without knowing how the report was produced and for what purpose, you are dancing in the dark.

Much like the game of telephone, your most critical data has been manipulated numerous times, by various resources and ever-changing business processes over time. A solid information management program should pinpoint these complexities and manage this critical data across the business in a strategic and tactical way in order to achieve better business outcomes.  If you want data to be your strategic weapon, intelligent information management capabilities are a must.

Posted: 9/3/2020 8:30:00 AM by Susan Laine - Global DI Evangelist
Filed under :Data, Information, Intelligence, Management