DATA AND INFORMATION
The terms data and information are commonly used interchangeably, technically the terms have distinct meanings.
Consider what happens at a travel agency. Some of the decisions that must be made are:
- how many seats on a charter flight to book for this holiday next year
- who to send the latest brochure to
- which holidays to promote
Information that will inform these decisions includes:
- number of people booked on a holiday
- number of un-booked places
- comparative demand for the holiday over the past three years
- the profitability of the package holiday
- number of holidays taken by a particular family
This information comes from data that is collected regularly as part of the business:
- details of package holidays (price, location, duration)
- details of package holiday bookings (no of people, date of departure, holiday selected, the amount paid)
Data are raw facts, unorganized and frequently unrelated to one another. Data are frequently numerical (quantitative) but are not necessarily so. Data can be non-numeric (qualitative).
- Examples of data:
- A certain machine broke down 4 times last week,
- There are 13 employees in the Accounts Department,
- Last year’s budget for the HR Department was £157,000,
- Employee satisfaction with working conditions in the factory,
- In December 1500 wheelbarrows were produced,
- Last month 385 expense claims were submitted.
These are examples of internal data, generated within an organization.
External data are generated outside the organization. For example:
- The inflation rate rose last month to 4% pa,
- Parliament has just passed new legislation on pollution controls,
- The imports of Japanese cars rose last year by 5%,
- Correspondence from a customer praising the wheelbarrow he purchased.
Information is obtained by processing data in some way. Information is a collection of related pieces of data. For example:
- The machine that broke down 4 times last week had a major overhaul only 3 weeks ago,
- The 13 employees in the Accounts Department represent 10% of the employees of the company,
- Last year’s budget of £157,000 for the HR Department was up by 12% on the year before,
The drawing together of relevant pieces of data provides managers with some important information. Information adds context to the data and provides meaning.
Data can be processed into information by:
Bringing together related pieces of data and tabulating, aggregating, filtering or simply rearranging them;
- Tabulation and the use of diagrams;
- Statistical analysis;
- Financial analysis
This post contains the content of the book Applied Business Analysis