Validating Information

To manage this information overload, companies spend billions of dollars on software designed to give their employees better access to the information they need. Such investments in enterprise portals, document management systems, and text retrieval technology give companies better ways to present information.  Yet this is only half of the battle.

Good presentation of information means focused information relevant to the decision making in progress at any time.  Internal information should be consistent (but often isn't). Understanding the source and reliability of data is vital to having the confidence to make informed decisions. One version of the truth is crucial to ensuring consistency and information credibility.

As discussed in earlier articles in this series, defining the information requirements and ensuring correct input is crucial to ensure that we don't get GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out).

In an ideal world this means that in designing a system, the specification should reflect all the questions which the output is expected to support. For operational information this is possible, for decision support it is not quite so easy and for information from the Web, it is almost impossible. In these circumstances ensuring the recognition of "quality" data which can be relied upon is key.

In order to more effectively locate the "quality" information for decision making, there are a number of tools and centralized resources that might be useful. To reduce confusion when searching for information, we should know what tools are available and how to use them. Information on the Internet is posted in a number of different formats located at thousands of sites. Information is stored in and across sites and can be referenced geographically, topically, by keyword or by random chance and exploration. Not all data is updated or accurate and knowing reliable sources is very important.  Large volumes of data are fraught with inconsistencies, errors and useless data. When we try to retrieve or search for information, we often get conflicting information or information which we do not want. Therefore, validating information is another important aspect of information usage.

Information must be timely if it is to be useful. In many cases "old'' or outdated information has as little value as no information at all, or worse, may have negative value. Version control is crucial but, with external information from the Web, often difficult to achieve. 

All of this discussion boils down to the fact that the ability to effectively access and evaluate information for a given need is essential to being successful.  Those who can use the tools available to sift and validate the information to enable informed decision making will be the winners in the race to avoid information overload and achieve optimum information management.

This is the third in a short series of articles about the excess of information in the "information age". Earlier articles discussed information overload - what is it?, and too much information. Future articles will consider how:

  • additional information causes change issues
  • how to minimise information overload.

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