Making sense of information

warning! flood of electronic dataRecently big data and web design have come under a similar challenge:

What is the point of doing it?

Big Data is buckling under its own weight. So much information, so fast the change, so vast the variety – who can make sense of it and actually use it? An article by Richard C. Larson says “small data” is the new black and looks at the opportunity using a small but significant subset of the data that can actually be processed by humans. The idea of BI still is to transform data into actionable information. Small data sounds like a possible approach towards it.

The UX magazine challenges web designers by saying their trade is largely irrelevant. There are only so many ways to create a great contact or payment form and those exist. Why do it again?

Sergio Nouvel of Continuum says: “2015 must be the year where we shift our focus to unsolved problems, especially ones we’ve been inadvertedly feeding all these years: the overload of information. The world needs designers to simplify, not to add up to the noise. Artificial intelligence is becoming the way of extracting sense and relevance of seas of information we have no human bandwidth to process. As professionals meant to be the experts in the creation of sense, this challenge needs us on board.”

The answer to the question is the same in both cases:

“Making sense of information by preparing and presenting it in readily consumable or actionable form.”

IT Architects from web design, information architecture, to business intelligence and enterprise architecture have a common goal: deliver value from the flood of electronic data.

What is on your top list for 2015?

BI or Business Intelligence

BI CubeSome time ago I started this series of blog posts on Information Management. Just to recall we are talking about People, processes, content, and technology. Today I’d like to dive a bit into the content aspect.

Big Data

has a number of components, namely volume, variety, velocity and lifespan.

The volume of information we create and capture has increased exponential over time. Using electronic systems has made that a lot easier than just 60 years ago. And sensors everywhere – thinking “Internet of Things” will continue to push that volume up. Although, volume is no substitute for quality. Finding the information that has value for you (or your business) is critical.

Many data sources are now from automated systems. If you ever watched “Person of Interest” you know what I mean. But simple things add to the variety of information that is collected and created. Think SmartPhone (location based data), wearables (heartrate, …), optical sensors, pressure sensors, and so on. Not everything is standardised and that makes it challenging from a technical perspective to sort, analyse and generally make sense of it. Just have a quick look at the different standards for spatial information.

10 years back doing a daily back up was acceptable and monthly ones were kept for a long time to cover regulatory compliance. Just a few years later many organisations couldn’t complete a full back up every day. The schedule timeframe was too short. Incremental back ups were necessary to cover just the changes. Velocity driven data management started then. Today sensor created data and the multitude of people providing information are updating the knowledge of many domains continuously.

Quality

All 3 factors provide us with up to date information. It’s just the question to find the relevant information for our specific challenge. BI or Business Intelligence is the key buzzword for some time to address this. ETL or Extract – Transform – Load are the processes BI employs to provide actionable information from the big bucket of collected data. BI relies heavily on the accuracy of the source data and their actuality. Hence 2 processes are consistently applied, one that ensures outdated information is archived or reviewed and another that qualifies the data on its source reputation.

BI can then be applied to provide 4 stages of information

(1) hind sight – an explanation why something has happened

(2) summary – a condensed version what is happening right now

(3) foresight – an exploratory view of what might happen

(4) influence – a set of possible actions to achieve a certain result in the future

Challenges and Opportunities!

4 principles of Information Management

Variety - Volume - Velocity

Variety – Volume – Velocity

The world of big data arrived some time ago. And while the amount of information on the Net is continuously rising, it happens on our personal and corporate systems, too. One only needs to look at the emergence of products like “Sanebox“, which helps you manage your email inbox, cloud storage and share systems like Dropbox and Box, and the rapidly rising capacity that Amazon provides with S3.

Every one of us has so much information available that it becomes harder to keep track of what’s important and how to find it again 2 weeks later!

Good Information Management starts with recognising that is necessary to do something about it.

People

This leads us straight to the first principle. Employees need to do Information Management and not just acknowledging it is a good thing. Hence we must put things in place that ensure people act and act consistently.

Process

This is supported by well designed processes. For example, a supplier email comes in advising a new pricelist. Who receives the email? Is it documented where the new pricelist is stored? Are relevant people notified? Is the old pricelist replaced or marked as obsolete? What happens if the email recipient has left the company?

Content

Information Management is about content. Recognise the different types of information from Word documents, to emails and phone call, from drafts to published data, or from project management to customer requests. Create categories that are relevant to your business and link those to your processes.

Technology

Okay, I’m in IT so let’s not forget that the tools you use play a role, too. Where do people store information? On the local harddrives, a shared service, the cloud? Consistently in the same folders or directories? A lot of people use their email system for storage and retrieval. Most email systems have quite good search capabilities while finding a much needed document on a shared drive or even your local computer is often a challenge. Choose technology that does what you want and is aligned how your staff works.