Do discussions with your colleagues frequently result in confusion and even conflict over the difference in understanding and vocabulary?

When you talk about business information, it’s necessary to gauge the perspective of the person. Many times, there’s a disconnect between the groups of people who join in a conversation. This is one of the problems with any conversation between people about business information.

Executive Management

First, the executive managers think about business information in terms of a holistic attribute to the business as a whole. They need to make high-level, strategic decisions about the direction of their enterprise.

Essentially, from an executive viewpoint, business information is almost entirely about supporting some decision. This is where business intelligence and dashboards have become quite popular.

That could be a very high level of view, such as strategic direction in the global marketplace, getting capital to fund some new product launch, creating efficiency within the operation to maximize profit, etc…

They’re not as concerned about the underlying technical aspects of the business information itself. They’re content to analyze the world through their Excel spreadsheets, however those magic numbers appear in each column, row, and cell. When they can get a nice user interface presentation of charts and graphs to see how their organization is doing, they really love that.

Essentially, an executive view comes down to placing bets. They have limited time, resources, and capital. Therefore, executives need to make decisions about where to spend the money. Access to the right business information at the right time helps them make those decisions.

We call this “decision support”.

Systems designed to help executives evaluate and make choices are called “decision support systems” — or ultimately, the idea behind the business information systems practice of “business intelligence”, or getting access to all of the available data for the purpose of making the most informed decision possible… aka “betting on which pony” with your available capital.

Operations

The people involved in operations of an organization are less concerned about the strategic nature of the business itself. They’re more concerned about simply doing their job on a day-to-day basis. So their view of data comes down to the business information they need to perform some specific operations task.

When they “do something” within the context of their operational role, they’re creating more business information as part of the process sequence.

Their data is combined with the previous business information to develop metrics about the workflow or process they’re embedded within the operations.

Information Technology

IT people look at business from the very technical perspective. Not so much business information from the strategic or even operations viewpoint – rather, data in the sense of the actual management of the database, tables, rows, indexes, right joins, SQL queries, data abstraction layers, code, relational integrity between tables, et al.

You know, the hardcore nerdy talk about stuff like SQL Server, data warehouses, etc… The IT folks are an enabling subset of operations and executive decision support, although if you asked them, most wouldn’t ever view their world in that sort of context. They’re genuine techies with a very micro-focused view.

Business information is one of the most important assets of any enterprise.

In fact, I would put it nearly on par with capital itself as essential basic elements necessary for any level of success in the knowledge economy. But the subjective nature of the discussion about business information is one of the biggest obstacles in understanding exactly why it is so important – and further, how to leverage that data at each level within the business itself.

This is why it’s extremely important to match the discussion about business information and data with the audience at hand.

It’s also where communication breakdowns frequently occur, people talking past each other while nodding politely (all the while thinking to themselves, “that person simply doesn’t understand what I am saying”).

Technical people start talking about performance tuning, application layers, and third normal form.

Meanwhile operations and executives roll their eyes, wondering how they can get the information needed to do their jobs and place their bets.

This is why it is extremely important to understand how the context affects the meaning of the terms “information” and “data”. When using these terms, always be conscious of the audience, and understand there may be different meanings depending upon who you’re talking with.

How do you view business information in terms of your role with your organization?

 

Michael Hiles

GenX writer, speaker, mentor, C-level digital, & tech business guy. Sold my first website project in 1994. The rest is history. Serial entrepreneur. I work with lots of startups as managing director of Founder Institute Cincinnati. Bourbon, coffee, Legos, things that explode. Husband & daddy.

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