Business Intelligence – the difference between data, information and knowledge

Phillip Smith
Software Director

To kick off my series of blogs I thought I’d deconstruct the fundamentals of what Tiger does – Business Intelligence.

Let’s start with a broad definition:

BI is the process of collecting, storing and analysing data from business operations, in near real-time, to support better decision making. 

But how do we make decisions? Let’s get down to some nitty-gritty and explore the difference between data, information and knowledge – and how these three things tie up to enable decision support.

Data vs information 

Data and information are terms readily confused, but which do have distinctive meaning.

Data are raw, single-valued facts from which information is derived. Individual pieces are rarely useful alone. For it to become information, data needs to be put into context.

Let’s explore this with a real-world telecoms example.

Trillions of facts 

A Tiger Prism enterprise customer may make 100 million phone calls a year. Each call carries, typically, 500 or so pieces of technical data that describe such things as routing, quality, timing and cost. Examples of these single-valued facts include a call’s Response Time, Jitter and Calling Packets Sent. Over a regulatory seven-year data retention period, that’s over a third of a trillion facts! This is data.

Adding the context 

To make smart decisions, identify problems and be profitable, you need to turn your data into actionable insights. But two things are missing. Firstly, your business context is absent. The relationships between call data and business entities – such as employees, department, projects, locations and cost centres – need to be introduced. Only then can you answer a question that starts with, “which department…” or “which person…”

Prism effectively puts the ‘business’ into Business Intelligence by using a smart record matching engine to automatically collect, relate and synchronise your business data. This is context.

Eliciting information 

When data is processed, organised, structured or presented in a given context – so as to make it useful – it is called information. For example, if we were to overlay a department’s call quantities and durations across each day for a month to visualise the distribution, then this could provide a call centre manager with insight into the peaks and troughs of call activity across a typical working day. This is information.

Making a decision 

To move from information to a decision we need knowledge. In the example of the call centre manager above, she should ask herself, “What should I do with this information?”

At the heart of any business decision is, usually, a drive to reduce costs, save time,  optimise resource and/or improve customer experience. How should she respond? Does she need to employ more staff? Should she reorganise existing employees into shift patterns to cover the peaks and troughs effectively? Is there something she could do to reduce call durations perhaps through training, improved business processes, better documentation or implementing a shared knowledge base?

Business knowledge – combined with data driven information – allows you to make the right decision and do the right thing.

For more information on how Tiger can support your decision-making and save you time, money and resource, contact our sales team on +44 (0)1425 891000 or find out more about the services Tiger have to offer here