We are living in the 4th industrial revolution where data and information reigns king in business and in everyday living. Organizations that manage their data resource well and generate the much needed information are most likely to have competitive edge over their competitors and serve their clients and stakeholders better. Employees, customers and other stakeholders of an organization expect value in the information that is provided to them in the course of transaction in an organization. Ralph M. Stair and George W. Reynolds in the their book Fundamentals of Information Systems lists the following as characteristics of valuable information.
Information Should be Easily Accessible
Clients, employees and stakeholders wants easy access to authorized information in the right format the right time to meet their needs. For example, employees need all the relevant information they need to serve a customer during the course of doing their normal designated duties. Clients should be provided with the right information whenever needed. For example, website with relevant general information and contact details so that clients don’t have to make lengthy phone calls or wait in physical service counter que to access such information.
Accurate information is error free. This all depends on the systems and processes the organization has to correct accurate data in the first instance. Information is a by product of data which is the raw facts. The equation is pretty simple. Quality data equals quality information. Quality data should be captured, stored, processed and presented with no errors. Principle of Garbage In Garbage Out(GIGO). Whatever data is fed into this data to information transformation process determines the what comes out as end product-which is the information.
The information presented must contain all the important facts. Although, information is often provided on the case by case, based on situation, need to know basis or authorized to access certain information and etc, what this means is that, whatever is presented must have all the important facts. For example, an invoice for a service provided must include, the hours spend on the task, the details of the task performed, the rates of each task, total amount, date of service, proof of completion and etc.
Economical to produce.
It does cost to produce quality information and decision makers in the organization must always balance the value of information with the cost of producing it. All cost factors of producing quality information must be considered so that cost is minimised with compromising the quality of information.
Flexible to serve variety of purposes.
Flexible information can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, in a company selling products, the stock level information of products in stock is important to different people in the organization. Sales person needs it to close a sales deal, inventory manager need it to replenish the stock, the accountant need to know the value of stock left in the inventory. Same information but flexible enough to serve all different purposes.
Information that serves it’s purpose.
All information that is presented is to serve a purpose. This means, the information that is presented is relevant to the needs of the user. There is no point is producing information that serve no purpose at all. Organizations must have systems that make sure that information is organized to serve the required purposes where it is needed.
Reliable information that can be trusted.
Reliable information can be trusted by users. In most cases, information obtained from one organization can be provided as evidence or required by another organization. Therefore, the information that is provided must have some features to serve evidence to trust. For example, most banks require evidence of employment to give individual loans to their clients. This means that the employment status document that he/she presents to the bank must have the authorized signature of the HR Department, contact details, employee designation and etc. In the event the bank wants to verify the document, they can easily do it.
Whatever information that is presented must be simple enough to be digested by the receiver and not too complex. Too much information can cause information overload, whereby a decision maker has too much information and is unable to determine what is really important. Each profession have their own jargons and use of jargons can cause misunderstanding if the receiver is not from the same profession. So information must be simple to serve the required purpose for the recipient.
Timely information is delivered when it is needed. Information age over time. Some information that is relevant last year may not be relevant today. For example, flight information to book airline tickets, daily weather forecast. Some information or records do last over a longer span of time. Land records, medical records of patients and etc.
Information should be verifiable. This means, it can be checked to prove it is correct. Perhaps by checking many sources for the same information. For example, academic qualification presented to the HR department for employment can be verified with the issuing University or college to make sure the qualifications were not faked. Financial records or statements can be be certified by external auditors to prove it’s accuracy for shareholders and etc.
These are the characteristic of valuable information that organizations to strive to achieve when providing information. For recipients of information this serves as a reminder to what to look out for whenever he/she is presented with a set of information.