3: Quality of Information (How to find information (Non-ICT sources of…
3: Quality of Information
Quality of information
Some information is better than other information.
For example, you need to decide how reliable the information is.
Particularly important, as decisions are usually made on the basis of the information.
The quality of the information is a measure of:
The accuracy of the information
Credit card statements must have the correct rate of interest applied to the balance, otherwise customers will complain and the card company could be prosecuted.
The relevance for a particular use
A group has been asked their record company for a breakdown of their royalty for all months over the last three years and the record company only gave them the total royalties for each year.
The group wanted to look at the seasonal variations in their royalties, but the information given would not show this.
How up to date the information is
Food is usually stamped so that after a certain date, it would be best not to eat it.
Information should be date stamped, as using out of data information could result in problems such as bills being sent to the wrong address, decisions being based on incorrect information and so on.
All reports and printouts from a computer should be date stamped so that the user knows how recent the information is.
A report showing out of stock items in a store printed out on Monday should not be used to order more stock on a Friday, as many more items would have gone out of stock by then and there is the possibility that more stock may have replaced previously out of stock items.
How well information is targeted
Information needs to be targeted at the person who is going to use it.
Management frequently receive reports containing detailed figures and diagrams, when all they really need is an overview of the situation.
Lower level of management needs details on daily operations in order to make decisions about scheduling, stock control, payroll, staff rotas, etc.
Top managers and directors should not have to wade through mountains of detail just to get the information they need in order to arrive at a decision.
All they need is to be able to identify problems and trends at a glance, so just a summary is needed.
How much user confidence there is in the information
Sometimes, when users ask for information from the system, they spot some aspect of the information that they know is definitely wrong.
This causes them to suspect other aspects of the information.
The system may tell them there are five items of a certain product in stock when they know that there are actually two.
When this happens, the user has no confidence in the system providing the information and rather than use the system to tell them how many items of a product are in stock, they would prefer to go and check.
The completeness of information
Hard for any organisation to base decisions on incomplete information.
A customer may ring up and order some goods and the salesperson may say they will be delivered the next day.
The salesperson may not have a stock list so they have incomplete information regarding the stock position.
Therefore important that the salesperson has all the facts, such as the current stock position, when taking orders.
How easy the information is to understand
Meaning of information should be clear to the user and any abbreviations or codes used should be explained.
Information cannot be used properly unless it is understood.
Also important that information is unambiguous, since it could mean that members at a meeting could be talking at cross purposes.
Requirement under the Data Protection Act 1998 that if the data subject requests information about themselves, the information must be presented clearly with any codes explained.
Complex data, particularly in the form of numbers in tables, are quite difficult to understand and interpret.
Much better if such information is presented pictorially so that comparisons between figures can be made quickly and any trends can easily be spotted.
It should not be up to the reader to do this further analysis, so the information you supply should always be in the form that makes it easy to understand.
Importance of keeping data up to date
Requirement under the Data Protection Act 1998 for anyone who processes personal data to keep that information accurate and up to date.
Very difficult for a business to do this alone.
If you move house, likely to tell bank, credit card companies, utility companies (gas, electricity, telephone, etc.) but unlikely to tell the company you booked a holiday with last year so they can stop sending you brochures.
There are companies that keep details of people who:
Have moved house (Including their new address).
Have asked not to be sent unsolicited mail (ie, mail they have not asked for).
Have never responded to a mail-shot.
Companies provide a service where you can update your data with all the changes.
These organisations get the data from:
The moving details come from the utility companies who are contacted with the new address details when people move.
Deceased data comes from the Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths.
People who do not want to be sent mail-shots comes from a database set up by the Mailing Preference Services (MPS).
Data concerning people who have never responded to a mail-shot comes from all the companies who send mail-shots who pool this information together.
Processing huge amounts of data
Sometimes the main problem with data is that there is too much rather than too little.
Processing huge amounts of data requires a powerful computer coupled with sophisticated software.
How to find information
Online information sources
Many organisations use an intranet as an internal network to enable information to be shared.
Intranets use internet technology for internal networks used only by the staff of the organisation.
Users of the intranets are able to use web browser software to access data in any database that the organisation wants to make available.
Sales staff could gain access to stock information using the intranet.
Intranets are good ways of making information available to lots of people, as they are used to using the internet and they can quickly figure out how to search for specific information as the techniques are just the same.
Huge amounts of information can be found on the internet and many companies subscribe to online services which provide them with the information they need.
High street travel agents have access to flights and holidays that are not available to book direct.
They can access these systems using the internet.
Some examples of information from the internet that could be used by managers of an organisation:
Tax information - To see how best to use the tax laws to lower the amount of tax paid by a business.
Information about the Data protection Act and other laws - To ensure that the company is complying with the law.
Details of utility suppliers and their costs - So as to minimise the costs to an organisation.
Research into competitors products or services - So as to ensure that the company remains competitive.
Information from the government's National Statistics Office can be used to find information useful for planning.
Advantage in using CD-ROMS to hold information is that the information on the CD-ROMS cannot be altered and the fact that CDs can hold a large amount of information.
CD-ROMS are used less for the distribution of large amounts of information, mainly because most information does change and is easier to access the information online.
Examples of information from CD-ROM includes:
CD from the Royal Mail containing full listings of all known UK addresses, updated quarterly.
CD from a customer database to give travelling salespersons contact details and details about past orders.
Non-ICT sources of information
Directories (Phone directories. Yellow pages, etc.)
Paper invoices, bank statements, orders, P60s, credit card statements, utility bills, etc.
Old paper-based records.