Data, Information and why Michelin star chefs don’t buy supermarket produce

Mark Atkins, Intraversed

ESTIMATED READING TIME: 3 MINUTES

You know that moment, the first mouthful of the dish, when the taste powerfully infuses through your taste buds and somehow takes over your entire focus – the meal is THAT good.

The work of a skilled master chef is an impressive thing to experience – all the more because we all have access to the same raw ingredients, but what that chef does with those ingredients deserves Michelin stars, whereas our meals…..well, we feel lucky if the family is happy enough to eat it.

The difference between that Michelin quality meal and our home cooked “good enough” dinner is not dissimilar to information produced from data stores within organisations. The same raw data is available to all but the results that come from using it can vary greatly.

Data vs. Information

How do you ensure a Michelin quality report is being produced from your raw data?

The answer starts with understanding data and information.

Data

Like raw ingredients in a recipe, data are the basic items an organisation collect about their business. For the most part, data are stored in databases as individual units of data, in tables and cells.

Just as good raw ingredients are obtained from farms and factories with good production and quality standards, so too does good data need to be correctly chosen, carefully collected, appropriately stored, thoroughly checked and cleaned, all according to high standards of quality and a comprehensive knowledge of the exact nature of the data being collected.

Once your customer service team has collected data, your IT department is in charge of each of these data handling processes and, if they’re doing a good job, they ensure your data is of the highest quality. Quality data is, of course, a foundation of having good information from which to monitor business activity and make business decisions. But it is not, in itself, that information.

Information

Based on the needs of a business function, members of your business team request data from your IT dept. for analysis. IT then provide your quality raw data, to be “cooked” by your organisation’s “chefs”.

It is these business “chefs” who create information.

Information constitutes the “recipes” the chef creates to use your data to its best advantage. Information is also the “dish” that is produced from the recipe – that is, the report or website or dashboard etc.

Finally, information is also the specific way the dish will be presented. Every master chef knows that the dish will have the best and most desired effect only when it is consumed in the specific context he or she has intended. Within organisations, this means having protocols and structures in place for the use and re-use of your information.

We refer to all these unique types of information as artefacts. And much like great Michelin starred chefs and their recipes, kitchens and dishes, each information artefact tells a story, has a history and meaning, and will eventually be outdated or superseded by something new.

By these definitions, data and information are very different things and demand different management techniques. The rules of the farm or factory can not and should not extend to the kitchen and dining room.

Can you determine if your reports deserve Michelin star?

When you’ve got a hoard of cooks, using inconsistent recipes and methods, differing ideas about what tastes good and choosing different ingredients, it’s no surprise that information artefacts may not be worthy of a Michelin star.

And, like food preparation, when quality processes are not in place and enforced, there is always the risk that food may be poorly prepared, leaving consumers at risk of being poisoned!

The goal is to ensure that your information artefacts are being created and consumed consistently, based on well-defined and quality processes. This level of quality control ensures Michelin-quality dishes are repeatedly produced in the world’s top kitchens and it will ensure a similarly consistent quality in your organisation.

Like a well-managed kitchen, your organisation’s recipes (that is, your business terms, definitions, rules, and their standards), need to be consistently applied and accessible to all chefs.

And like a Michelin quality dining room, your organisation’s processes need to ensure

  • the destination of the dish is known (that is, the purpose of the information and who will be using it),
  • its successful delivery is recorded (a central register of all information, visible to all staff, for leverage and future use),
  • complaints about the dish and the dining experienced are well managed (that is, identifying when data has been mis-used, misunderstood or poorly analysed, and ensuring the information artefact created in this way is identified and no longer used).

In our next blog [read it here], we’ll explore the question of establishing an information management or governance process that is distinct from your data management process.

Mark Atkins, Intraversed

Mark Atkins

Mark is a co-founder & Chief Development Officer at Intraversed, helping organisations establish the Intralign Ecosystem, an award winning information management & governance methodology, to achieve reliable information, stable tech spend & greater IT project success.

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