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Data vs Information: What’s the Difference? (Infographic)
In every decision you make, your brain is processing data and information both consciously and sub-consciously when you don’t even realise it. However, these two terms are often falsely conflated and incorrectly used interchangeably. There is a subtle distinction between data vs information that is important to know when developing an information strategy.
In a nutshell, data consists of raw, unorganised information such as a numerical figure, word or character, from which information can be extrapolated and interpreted only when given context. Data by itself tends to have very little meaning, whereas once it has been contextualised and interpreted, it gains meaning and is transformed into information. For example, the number 1122 by itself is a piece of data that has little to no meaning. If this same number however is used as a password, it now has meaning and becomes information. The following infographic provides a detailed example of a process in which data is transformed into information.
Another way of looking at the difference between data vs information, is in the context of a computer system. In this scenario, data would be the input and what the computer spits out would be information, i.e. the output. This means that information is dependent on data, but data is not dependent on information.
Examples of data include, the time and date of a transaction, the value of a transaction, what product was purchased and in what quantity, and how payment was made. On a deeper level, data can be further broken down into two types; structured and unstructured data. Structured data can be defined as well organised information that can be easily searched, analysed and classified. Unstructured data, on the other hand, comprises of pretty much everything else, and isn’t structured using a schema or data model. Types of unstructured data include such things as text files, conversations and audio clips. You can read more about the difference between structured and unstructured data here.
Conversely, an example of information within a business setting would be identifying that sales from the U.S. are increasing, whilst sales from Australia are decreasing. In a business and organisational context, information has a variety of purposes. This can include obtaining information about markets, competitors and business resources. It also includes information about sales, costs, profits and cash-flow forecasts that assist in measuring and predicting business performance.
As the volume of data generated each day continues to significantly increase with technology, the ability to manage data and information effectively has become an essential part of organisational operations. Our team specialises in helping clients harness the power of their data through improved information management processes and procedures, information architecture, and the use of tools such as SharePoint, RecordPoint, ControlPoint, Structured Data Manager and more. Get in touch with our team if you’d like to discuss how we can help streamline operations and improve the way your team works.
Luke is an experienced Marketing Manager and host of the Information Transformation Podcast. He has a keen interest in developing engaging content to inform people about the changing landscape of the information management industry.
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