From big data to good information

Chris Conway
Chief Architect, Quantiv

What you need to know depends on what you want to do

When I was at school, a favourite statement of one of my teachers was: “Geography is learnt through the soles of your feet.”

This teacher was a firm believer in the benefits of ‘in the field’ learning, as opposed to relying just on classroom-based teaching and textbooks.

Of course, this could simply have been an excuse for a field trip, i.e. “We need to study volcanoes, so let’s go to Hawaii!”

But there was a serious point behind it. Because no matter how good a textbook, or indeed a teacher is, on-the-ground experience is invaluable for you to understand why something is the way it is.

Detailed analytics and real-time operational metrics

I was reminded of the benefits of practical ‘in the field’ experience recently by a client’s comments about her information architecture.

She described how the information collected helped her team to understand how her organisation operates, both in terms of detailed analytics and real-time operational metrics.

Her descriptions of why the information was important also spoke of first-hand, personal experience of her organisation’s processes. She’d seen the information in use and had used it herself.

Flexible data

She described how she could use the same data in different ways, depending on the situation. And conversely, the same situation could call for different data at different times.

This perhaps illustrates an important principle: for your information to be useful, it needs to be put into context.

But context isn’t just about exposing your information, although that’s a fundamental requirement. It’s also about the concepts of timeliness, precision, accuracy, and comparability, because:

  • If you receive perfect information too late, there’s no opportunity for you to make decisions that could have had a significant effect on a situation – late positives
  • Inappropriate generalisations or specialisations could result in resources being wasted or ineffective – expensive positives
  • Inaccurate information could prompt changes to areas that are already operating perfectly, while leaving mistakes uncorrected or even undetected – false negatives/positives
  • Being unable to compare information across time, or with similar circumstances, could make the information meaningless – unknown positives/negatives

It is possible to reveal and compare accurate operational metrics in a timely and specific way.

But how?

By ensuring operational information is collected, managed, and exposed in a standardised format based on the above concepts.

It’s all about the right information

The concepts and their characteristics aren’t specific to information in a particular domain. The principles of classifying, qualifying, and quantifying data apply regardless of the applications from which the data originates. The concepts remain the same, while only the specific instances of classifiers, qualifiers, and measurements change.

These concepts mean it’s possible to develop a flexible and robust service to ensure consistent and appropriate information is exposed as and when it’s needed – bringing information to life.

So, like the geography textbook in the classroom, data has its place in your operational management. After all, field trips are expensive, time consuming, and infrequent. Now the techniques available mean much more contextual data can be included, so the data doesn’t need to be so dry.

However, knowing what you need to know depends on knowing what you want to do.

So, while it’s good to bring your information to life, it’s just as important to bring life to your data.

Discover the benefits of operational metrics

At Quantiv, we specialise in operational metrics. Our services will help you organise your application data, manage its storage, and automate its use, turning it into essential operational information.

To find out more, get in touch on 0161 927 4000 or email: