HR leaders: stop using data, start using information
We all know them: Wordfeud, Boggle and the other word games. They involve working with letters, combining them into words and winning by earning points for making the most of the letters. What can you find in the puzzle here?
Believe it or not, Information management is not much different from these kinds of games—at least as it is still used in a large number of organizations.
Information is often confused with data. But these two words are not interchangeable and actually have different definitions. The raw output (or content) from an operational system that is exported into an Excel spreadsheet is commonly refered to as information or even as a ‘report.’ However, this is incorrect: Information is the knowledge or insight, gathered or created, that is made available through data. Therefore, data is the basis for information— but not the information itself.
So far, so good, right? But the problem begins when people throughout an organization start using data to create their own information. This causes untold waste in both time and money, as they repeatedly reinvent the wheel and defend the merits of one ‘wheel’ over another. It’s not unusal for exports to be completed and even made available throughout the organization with no attention to data privacy or authorization rules. And then, not surprisingly, various individuals set about creating information based on their own ideas, filters, definitions and references. The reports generated from this process sometimes challenge even the automated reports available —simply because someone, somewhere along the way, came up with a new definition. The end result? The inadvertent invention of multiple versions of the truth.
This situation in and of itself is not the problem. Of course, people everywhere work freely with data; and sometimes this can be quite useful. However, in the context of today’s economic challenges—with an intensifying focus on efficiency and effectiveness by companies everywhere—having different versions of the truth or discussing ‘my number versus your number’ is just plain unacceptable.
Every organization has a strategy, and those strategies have objectives. Solid objectives are articulated in specific and measurable terms by the business and its IT experts, so that human and other resources are all working toward finding a single version of the truth—the only ‘real’ truth, actually. In this way, definitions, security, data privacy, authorizations and insight are anticipated and automated. And most importantly, data is already translated into information that managers and employees directly apply to their work.
There’s no question that the process of creating a standard set of reporting and definitions brings with it huge challenges. Why? Because many people are accustomed to controlling their own data and using their own definitions and reports, so that they can control what is being reported. Obviously, this costs time and money—time and money that can be saved, simply by redirecting efforts and resources in service of a single truth.
Our two puzzles illustrate the difference between data and information: The puzzle above represents data; the puzzle here, information. NorthgateArinso is the engine that can help HR Analytics get you from data to information.