Press "Enter" to skip to content

Improving businesses with better information management

This is the first of a two-part series that will discuss the development of knowledge and intelligence through business data. The goal of this article is to raise awareness and educate the Somali business community on the relationships between data, information, knowledge, decisions, and outcomes.

Nur Dirie Hersi Fursade, Ph.D.

New opportunities are emerging in many areas and regions of Somalia after years of destruction and hopelessness. Telecom companies, stores, schools and universities, health centers, social clubs, and many other types of businesses are opening daily. During my recent trip to the country, however, I noticed that most of those businesses are not progressing well because of their in­ability to harness hidden assets and resources within their businesses.

If they could identify and utilize key data, they would de­de­velop a greater understanding of their business and the steps required to move forward. This is the first of a two-part series that will discuss the development of knowl­edge and intelligence through business data. The goal of this article is to raise awareness and educate the Somali business community on the relationships between data, information, knowledge, decisions, and outcomes.

Data are pieces of facts with no meaning attached. As an example, let’s take a look at a small business that buys and sells jewelry. Assume the following four gold pieces in

Figure 1 are some of the many gold items in the busi­ness inventory:

The business owner wants to keep track of his/her as­sets, which in this case are gold pieces. The owner needs to be able to describe his stock in terms of price, carat, weight, and other relevant facts. In information manage­ment we call these descriptions data attributes. Attri­butes are what define the objects. Consider for instance the following values for the necklace:

Attribute Attribute Value
ID: 101
TYPE: Necklace
CARAT: 24
WEIGHT (in grams): 83
PRICE/GRAM: 42
MANUFACTURED: Dubai

We have defined six attributes, each with a corre­sponding value. And 101, Necklace, and 83 are examples of data. The data or values do not have meaning by them­selves unless attached to an attribute. As an example, 83 does not have a meaning unless we look at its attribute, from which we can then deduce that it is the weight of the piece in grams.

Businesses generate large number of data during the operations of their activities. Identifying, capturing, col­lecting, and analyzing the most relevant attributes and corresponding data is critical to the success of any busi­ness. There are often thousands of objects and attributesinvolved in a business. Professionals known as data architects identify the most relevant objects and cor­responding attributes and group them into separate ta­bles. The collection of these objects and corresponding values is known as a database.

Business databases may contain from several to thousands of tables depending on the size and op­erations of the business, and tables may in turn have millions of rows of data. Specific software programs are required to build and maintain these databases. A one-person operation might simply use Microsoft Ex­cel. Small businesses may need to use a database pro­gram such as Microsoft Access. Mid to large sized busi­nesses will need multi-user database programs such as MySQL, MS SQL Server, Oracle, or IBM DB2.

After data is collected into a database, it must also be processed and converted into information before our minds can process it. Let us take the example of the data in the wristband of a hospital patient, as shown in Figure 3, which is obtained from a database. The sticker has the following data: Sticker#: 10021-090958-F-MOG-SOM

Figure 3: Patient in a Hospital

The sticker# is simply data with no rational meaning. Now let us process it in the hospital application soft­ware. We enter the code retrieved from the database into the hospital application software and generate an output similar to what is shown in Figure 4:

Figure 4: Patient Code Information Output

The output values and corresponding attributes show that the patient is a female born in Mogadishu, Somalia on September 9, 1958, with the hospital ID 10021. The above example shows how the data you collect and store, known as raw data, is processed and converted into information. Figure 5 shows a sketch of this conversion process where data is converted into information.

Figure 5: Converting Data into Information

Suppose we have over 100,000 patients in the hos­pital database. Such data could be summarized and grouped by gender, birth location, and date of birth. This could then be correlated with other patient data in the database such as duration of hospitalization, type of diagnosis, doctors, nurses, prescriptions, medical lab results, etc.

Health service providers would have a wealth of in­formation about local health needs, through which they could develop and implement services for the commu­nity. This is a simple example of the role that data man­agement could play in business development.

Due to the globalized nature of the world today, busi­ness owners and management regardless of their loca­tions and business sizes need high quality information on their operating environment.

This information must be relevant, valid, and reliable. Generating high quality information requires that busi­nesses setup infrastructures to capture, collect, and analyze relevant business data in a proper and planned way.

Sharing is caring!

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

©2020 All Rights Reserved.
shares
0