In the IT world data has a very specific meaning. While related to information, it is not information. In fact, if you “ask” Wikipedia, what is data you will get this: “… Data is not information. Data requires interpretation to become information….” E.g. A temperature sensor produces raw data such as 21° C and 32° C. For this data to be transformed into information the times the values were taken and their value relative to all the other recorded values need to also be taken into consideration. So the information is, the minimum temperature was 21° C recorded at 3:30 am and the maximum temperature was 32° C registered at 1:00 pm. So the data are the basic building blocks from which everything else is built upon as the diagram above illustrates quite succinctly.
In their 2004 paper Gene Bellinger, Durval Castro and Anthony Mills describe their slightly different [5 tier] pyramid as follows:
- Data: Symbols
- Information: Data that are processed to be useful
- Knowledge: Application of data and information
- Understanding: Appreciation of why
- Wisdom: Evaluated understanding
By knowing what data isn’t and how it is the foundation upon which everything else is built I hope you have a better understanding of what data is and why accurate data collection is so very important to your business. Like in a building, if you get your foundation (data) wrong everything on top of it is unstable.