Thursday, 23 February 2012

Thoughts on BI: Data vs. Information

During my twitter support for NeutrinoBI at the Gartner conference in London the other week (remote support that is), I found myself in the position of commenting on a post that I didn't entirely agree with.

It was said that the end of the software age was upon us and that we are now entering the data age.  In my opinion, if this comes to pass, this will be a bad thing - while all software revolves around data to a lesser or greater extent, an application that displays data diminishes the efforts to collate it. An application that displays information augments the data into something usable.

I have no desire (nor the intelligence to be fair) to diminish the efforts of experts in this field, but as a comparative new-comer though, do believe there's still a lot to be said for Information and the blurring of the line between "data" and "information" is the problem many businesses experience when trying to get anything meaningful from what they have.
We (collectively throughout the industry) have software developers that write programs that access databases full of data. Throw that data into a grid and what do you have? Answer, a wall of data (fine if your name happens to be Daryl).

Those databases are monitored and maintained by Database Administrators who are there to ensure it all runs smoothly. Data administrators ensure that (in my view) the data is there, is accurate.

If the concepts of "data" and "information" were interchangeable, there would be no distinction between the functions of those already listed and Business Analysts and the gaps in the software market for Business Intelligence tools that truly deliver information would not exist.

Data is not information, just like eggs, flour and sugar are not cake. They can be transformed, have processed applied to them and be structured to make them into a cake (among other things), but they are not intrinsically cake.

The Information Age started well, but only really empowered the consumer user - in the last 20 years (20?? damn.. that must mean I'm..) the power of organisations to find out about themselves has progressed little, compared to Joe / Josephine Bloggs ability to discover and learn about countless random subjects on a whim.

I'm not a fan of sequels (generally) and 2.0 sounds too much like a hardware revision so instead, seeing as I'm software oriented, I hope that 2012 heralds change to bring benefit to all: