Definition and distinction between Data and Information
In the definition of S.I. and Information System we have used the Data and Information terms several times, because the IS. treats data and produces information. At this point it is necessary to give a precise definition also of these two concepts: Data and Information.
A Data is an objective and uninterpreted representation of reality, what is immediately present to knowledge. For example, the number of an invoice, its amount, the date of issue, etc. are given.
An Information is a vision of reality deriving from the processing and interpretation of data, the meaning we associate with data.
For example, after analyzing the invoice we can conclude that the transaction went well or not.
The information production process is divided into three phases:
- data acquisition (elementary);
- data processing;
- issuing information.
Elementary data cannot be immediately used by those who need the information and must be appropriately processed to become meaningful and understandable information for the recipients.
Process of switching between data and information
Among the data and information we can hypothesize that the same relationship exists between raw materials and finished products: the raw materials are the starting point of the production process, their transformation gives life to semi-finished products which, further treated, become finished products .
For the information the same thing happens: starting from the elementary data we obtain synthetic data, as an aggregation of elementary data, which, further treated, lead to information.
In this process the important aspect to highlight is the transition from elementary data to synthetic data or the synthesis process.
The synthesis process is inevitable both from the technical point of view and from the economic point of view and because it is impossible, from a technical point of view, to keep all the elementary data that could generate all the final information required by a company both because it is necessary to consider the costs of maintaining gigantic archives and the expense that would have to be borne if one were always to start from initial elementary data to obtain very similar information.
On the other hand, it must be considered that the summary reduces the information potential of the data:
because it reduces the volume of data;
because the criteria adopted to summarize the data depend on subjective choices;
because it is influenced by the recipient of the information or the end use that will come from it
Usually synthetic data are produced that respond to known or predictable information needs.
Information for users
The information is intended for specific users and it is therefore necessary to specify ways, times and places of production and presentation.
The term ways refers to the support with which the information is provided or the ways in which it is created and disseminated (routinely or by way of exception, that is to say when certain conditions occur or exceptional events occur) or the format in which will be presented.
The term times indicates the timing with which the information is processed and places, instead, the places where the information is supplied together with the position of the data sources.
So far it has been said that the information system must meet the needs of end users and therefore it is assumed that the analysts’ starting point for setting up the system is the requests of those who use the information.
An approach of this type is called pull (pull = pull, perform an action on request) because it starts from the purpose of the system, that is from the specifications requested by the users, and, based on them, defines the characteristics that must have the information system, which are “pulled” by users.
However, there is also another type of approach, called push (push = push, take an action in advance of the request), which requires analysts to set up systems that produce information and then submit them to the users’ judgment.
In this case the starting point is no longer represented by business needs but by technology.
When working with very innovative technologies that are introduced for the first time in the company, the push approach is more logical: the technicians anticipate the solutions because the users would hardly be able to indicate them.
When the technology is well known and the users have learned to master it, the most logical approach is pull: users will ask the S.I for certain requirements. and analysts will have to look for solutions based on these requests.