Cutter Consortium: Gathering Intelligence – Data or Information?

InsightaaS: Cutter Consortium is an IT advisory firm focused on software development and agile project management. Cutter’s blog site site presents "opinions on and reactions to what’s happening in business technology." In this post, Cutter senior consultant Carl Pritchard looks at the difference between data and information, and what it means in the context of the NSA, and of your own organization.

Truly savvy managers know the value of information. It’s the stuff intelligent decisions are borne of. But in recent weeks, the international community and the US Federal Government have been howling over the data collection efforts of the National Security Agency, making arguments as to whether or not those efforts are in the interests of US national security and whether or not data mining is an invasion of individual civil liberties. The concerns being raised may be misplaced. The major concern may not be with the data, but with the information being derived from it.

Information is distilled data. Distillation is a process that profoundly alters the natural state of the data. Anyone who has ever distilled data knows that context, sampling procedures, and data aging all play significant roles in the value of the information derived there from. As managers and executives, we need to examine four key considerations whenever we’re using data and information to make critical business decisions:

  • Am I being provided with data or information?
  • What’s the context?
  • How was the data derived?
  • How fresh is the data?

Data or Information?

First, we should always ask if we’re being given data or information. To make the distinction, it’s vital to look at the accompanying information that came with the accounts provided...

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