Data > Information > Knowledge > Wisdom. Hmmm.

Frequently we hear information management professionals, particularly consultants, talk about trying to distinguish data from information, often even throwing knowledge and wisdom into the mix. We think we know what they’re really after (other than protracted consulting projects) — it’s a framework within which bits and bytes representing things, events and/or relationships are transformed from a less-consumable format into a “higher order” more usable or valuable format.

While it may be helpful to create conceptual cubbyholes in discussing the information value chain (or supply chain), can one really distinguish “data” from “information”?  Is there actually some quantum jump in energy or a threshold a piece of data must exceed when it transforms into information? Probably not.

Certainly there is benefit in defining a continuum for acquiring, administering and applying information, within an organization–one that includes all of the ways (functions) data is captured, transformed, integrated and accessed/distributed.  However, we have yet to see such a definitive D>I>K>W framework in practice, one that is actually adding value to information management initiatives, not just being bandied about on architectural slideware.

Perhaps you have. We’d certainly like to learn of any examples if they’re out there.

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2 Responses to “Data > Information > Knowledge > Wisdom. Hmmm.”

  1. Doug, personally I prefer to talk about an information quality management. You are right by the hierarchy from data to wisdom but many companies and consultants talk only about data quality (because it is much simple) and institutionalize massive profiling and massive corrections (data cleansing). Why data cleansing which is scrap and rework only AND from a point of costs of poor quality both are only failure costs?
    Reason is that every single western manager requires quick results. Profiling at combination with data cleansing helps at fulfillment of this (pseudo)goal. Profiling statistics before and after cleansing looks different and it is easy to present how many outliers, different patterns etc. we have reduced by automate. But is it correct? I am afraid – it is not.
    Information quality (it is very hard to cleanse information – verbal especially) management is nothing more or less than standard quality management methodology. And it requires cultural changes inside each company. There are Deming quality points – it is nice reading how to transform culture inside organization to make it friendlier to quality.
    By institutionalizing of cleansing we push to senior management that data quality is nothing more than costs. Is it truth? Here should sound “NO“! I am sure every information quality professional must be familiar with costs of poor quality model. Based on it we can promote to senior management what information quality is and we can simply (with a minimal effort) to present what are the costs of poor quality information.
    Finally, there is significant difference between data and information. It is accuracy? Is “1961”accurate? Or is it valid only? Profiling and data cleansing ensures only validity and not accuracy. Accuracy we can investigate only by physical controls – there is no other way how to do it. Inaccuracy is a “source” of poor quality costs. Its impact must be eliminating because waste raises from inaccuracy.

  2. Firstly Doug thanks for your brilliant blog. And the 3 V’s…On Data – information – Knowledge. Yes I use this I’m afraid. I’m not in IT, I’m talking to clients about how to start/improve/increase their data-driven decision making. So the context I use this D-I-K journey in is in terms of how they are using the data, not so much about cleansing or quality. The picture I try and paint is that collection and storage of data offers a business opportunity. In beginning to test different hypotheses against these data and collecting the resultant insight it then acquires meaning (Information) and acquires a measure of business significance. Finally when it is used to inform ongoing decision making it can be justly called Knowledge and offers a sustainable business advantage. So it’s not so much about a hierarchy of quality for me but a hierarchy of action. Is that all just nomenclature?

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