Cambridge Technical Introductory Diploma in IT

(Unit 2 - LO1)

Understand where information is held globally and how it is transmitted.

 

Information styles.

It is generarally agreed that there are a dozen information styles.

  1. Text (different character sets e.g. Western, Cyrillic, Arabic, etc)
    Graphic (e.g. logo, photograph, diagram)
    Video (e.g. instructions on how to carry out a software update, live broadcast of a music festival)
    Animated graphic (e.g. pop-up book character, operation of the human heart)
    Audio (e.g. spoken instructions, music track)
    Numerical (e.g. profit, date and time)
    Braille text (e.g. written report printed on a Braille printer)
    Tactile images (e.g. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope images converted into tactile images for people who cannot explore the images by sight)
    Subtitles (e.g. translated speech for a film in a foreign language)
    Boolean (e.g. yes or no answer on a form)
    Tables and spreadsheets (e.g. simple database tables and spreadsheets)
    Charts and graphs (e.g. identifying trends, making comparisons).

Information Styles - Text

Sometimes it is necessary to use different character sets within documents e.g.. Western, Cyrillic, Arabic, etc. Unicode has hundreds of variations on the standard font sets to include characters that are unique to a particular culture or use. There are two types of characters, Unitype (or Unicode) and Truetype. Each of these is scalable and therefore placing the text within a written document is straightforward.

But it also means placing text within a non-written application like Photoshop (non-vector) or Autocad (vector based), means the font will need to be scaled evenly to avoid breaking up.

There are so many fonts available, categorized into Symbolic (Wingdings etc.) and Non-Symbolic (Arial etc.)

To write something in Arabic is just a matter of changing the keyboard layout or inserting the Unicode. Similarly with Greek or French. But to write in Japanese characters, Korean, Chinese etc. this is more difficult as letter forms are not the same when matched with side by side letters.

At the end of the day when it comes to information and data representation, a company will choose whatever font is appropriate for the occasion, large bold and forthright for posters, sans serif for formal letters, serif for informal and Cyrillic when the need comes to it.

Written communication methods including those using Information technology

Written communication methods include:

Business letters – used for either internal or external communication, they should follow a set structure.

Memos (an abbreviation or memorandum) – a written message used for only internally. Many businesses use computers to send these through the internal email system. An example of a memo sent by email is shown to the right.

Reports – detailed documents about a particular issue or problem. These are often produced by experts working in the business. They can be sent to managers to read before a meeting to discuss the issue. Very often these reports are so detailed that they could not be understood by all employees.

Notices pinned on boards – These are used to display information which is open to everyone. However, there is no certainty that they are read.

Graphic (e.g. logo, photograph, diagram) are a very common thing to use to represent data. Diagrams specifically are used to represent large or complex data like flow diagrams. But considerations have to be made when using graphics.

Information Styles - Graphic

Bitmap versus vector - There are two types of images, vector and bitmap, bitmap is images, pictures, created in packages like Photoshop that use pixels to create the image. Vector graphics on the other hand are mathematically calculated forms, work out by the computer as coordinates on the screen. A Vector image like a circle is 𝜋𝑟^2, and oval (equation shown below) is the same with the x and y dimension decreased or increased. When the computer needs to make it larger, instead of increasing the pixels, it merely changes the parameters of the formula. Therefor the image can be printed as large as necessary, shrunken, stretched or skewed without the loss of quality.

More importantly the image is a series of calculations, not pixels, therefor the amount of information and the length of time to calculate that position is far less, takes up less room and therefor the file size is far smaller no matter how complicated it is.
An example of a vector graphic program is Illustrator or Freehand and can be compared to Photoshop for a lot of features, similar layout, similar saving features, cross compatibility etc. , Setting tonal variations, colour blends, shadows etc. are still mathematically calculated but the programs change when filters are used or when images are imported.

Lossless Compression lets you recreate the original file exactly. All lossless compression is based on the idea of breaking a file into a "smaller" form for transmission or storage and then putting it back together on the other end so it can be used again.

Lossy compression works very differently. These programs simply eliminate "unnecessary" bits of information, altering the file so that it is smaller. This type of compression is used a lot for reducing the file size of bitmap pictures, which tend to be fairly bulky. To see how this works, let's consider how your computer might compress a scanned photograph.

A lossless compression program can't do much with this type of file. While large parts of the picture may look the same, the whole sky is blue, for example, most of the individual pixels are a little bit different. To make this picture smaller without compromising the resolution, you have to change the colour value for certain pixels. If the picture had a lot of blue sky, the program would pick one colour of blue that could be used for every pixel. Then, the program rewrites the file so that the value for every sky pixel refers back to this information. If the compression scheme works well, you won't notice the change, but the file size will be significantly reduced.

Of course, with lossy compression, you can't get the original file back after it has been compressed. You're stuck with the compression program's reinterpretation of the original. For this reason, you can't use this sort of compression for anything that needs to be reproduced exactly, including executable software applications, databases and spread sheets.

Colour models (RGB and CMYK) – There has always been two colour models since the development of computer artistry, one developed and used primarily for PC’s and one for Apples. When the line between the two computer formats disappeared the choice of colour models to use remained.

RGB (Red, Green and Blue), all three colours mixed makes black, the absence of all three makes white, every colour in between is a percentage of these three. What it did not define clearly was the tonal variation in the colouring, darks and lights, focussing more on the pure colours.

CYMK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) was developed as a crossover between the three primary colours. Red and Blue make Cyan, Blue and Green make yellow etc. The K (Black because there were too many other B’s like Blue, Brown, Beige etc.) differentiated the tones from dark to light.

At the end of the day they both give the same results with RGB slightly richer in purity against CMYK with a wider variety of tones. Why choose between them? Anything dealing with the web should always be in RGB and printed material should be in CMYK as printing is done in plates, CYMK plates - black (K) is refered to as the "key plate". See here for details.

Dots per inch (DPI) – this is the density of the image, the more dots per inch, the more detailed the image looks and the better it will print. This also means more time to print and more ink, larger files and more processing power.

Screen resolution is set in DPI, the higher it is set the more detailed the images are, this means better quality but screen resolution is better than printed resolution. A standard ink printer prints at 600dpi so there will be a degrading of the image when it prints. A good ink printer will print at 1200dpi and will be slower, laser colour printers start about the same but are faster.

Screen resolutions in comparison go up to 2000dpi, depending on the graphics card. This will mean some loss in quality but not everyone needs to print. Very high resolution screens are there for that detail, archviz images, high-definition video, 3d modelling and CAD for instance.

File formats have to be taken into consideration when working with images for numerous reasons, most importantly being not to lose all the hard work done to make the image as good as it is.

Jpg – This is the main image type available and uses different compression tools to reduce the size down from its original .tif format. This flattens all layers on to one layer like a deck of cards being photographed. There is no coming back from this as the layer information is not saved. But it is the most compatible file format, images from the web are usually Jpg’s, images from cameras, images scanned etc. The level of applies compression determines the quality.

Bmp - This is the original file format, 256 colours, uncompressed, a larger file size but quicker to load as the computer does not need to think about uncompressing it. It is still used for certain programs like Paint because it requires less processing power.

Png – this is a file type that is still popular as it still maintains the layers when it is saved. Similar to a Photoshop file but with the levels reduced to JPG layers so the overall file size is small. Programs such as Fireworks can then open this file with the different layers and allow the user to continue to use it. It is one of the only multilayer art packages that is openly compatible.

File conversion – this usually happens is the user has exited the program and now wants it in a different format for a purpose like a jpg for the web or to send to an outside printer or uploading or as a gif file for use on a webpage to link to the main image. Any stage of file conversion will lose something in quality, nothing is ever better than the original. Two things can be changed during this stage, file size and file type.

File size – people shrink the file size for different reasons, this is called compression. It might be to email, to upload faster, to preview or view faster on a website or computer, to reduce down the file space or just to make it mobile compatible.

Information Styles - Video

Video (e.g. instructions on how to carry out a software update, live broadcast of a music festival) can be very effective but information within them can be easily missed. For certain needs such as adverts this is the prime format, within instructional videos this and diagrams are key.

This is hardly an advert as the major use of video in the public domain would be YouTube.

Music, TV & Cinema, Games – All adverts on TV have some degree of videoed animation on them now. Simple ones include text animating on to the screen or bubbles floating off. Chocolate bars breaking open to show the excitement inside etc. The more complex ones involves animated characters, digitally recreated cars etc. The reason is that they are more entertaining than real life, and that recreating them non-digitally is too difficult.

Cinema – there are so few film opening sequences that are not done through digital means today. From Harry Potter opening titles, Terminator intros, Game of Thrones opening sequence. To not go digital means a serious expense, for the rest, download a template, change the text.

Music videos have come a long way in terms of videos since Yellow Submarine and Aha. Guitars that explode fire, digitally recreated backgrounds, animated notes, performing gorillas. The days when it was just camera work are gone, ¾ of all music videos will be enhanced by animations.

Animated graphic (e.g. pop-up book character, operation of the human heart) can be effective when demonstrating how something works or operates, but they have to be short and unobtrusive to be effective. For instance one on a website page is good, ten is not. Types include:

Web graphics, (Flash Games) – Web graphics that animate on site can look cute the first time but the novelty wears off. Animations like above, page transitions, picture movements, whole pages that are interactive like Disney Map site. These are novel, they allow the user to rollover and see more details on a part of the image without leaving the page. Flash Games are similar in that they are there for entertainment value but can be more. Web animations in Flash can be simple , a banner that has arrows, to complicated, MyMaths, Dynamic banners where you play a game and win a prize. These are embedded into frames on the site and work on most browsers.

Educational animations (training and safety videos) – There are two type of educational animations, those that impress and those that do their job. H&S videos do their job, show people lifting boxes, climbing ladders, doing CPR, the characters are neutral, the animations technical. The more entertaining educational animations are usually Flash based. Then there are tutorial videos with animations, images with animated arrows that prompt the user, again more practical than quality.

Information Styles - Audio

Audio (e.g. spoken instructions, music track)Voice over on a is a good way of getting instructions across to a target audience such as a Sat-Nav or a voiceover on a tutorial video. The benefit of this is that the audience can listen in their own time and at their own speed to the audio but there are downsides when using this medium for information dissemination:

  • Accents used – not everyone understands in the same way
  • Speed of dictation
  • Compatibility of file formats used
  • Volume and tone setting

For auditory learners this is a good form of transferring information. Similarly in adverts on Television, the use of a music track or background noises can be used to emphasise the information. Make the music more relevant and jingle like, and the audience is likely to use it as a key trigger to remembering something.

The most common uses for this medium include adverts, films, games, audio books, children’s toys, radio and direction finders. Places you are least likely to find this format include web pages due to the risk and annoyance, in public places, libraries and religious areas.

Information Styles - Numeric

Numerical (e.g. profit, date and time). It is likely that there will be occasions when you have numerical information that you want to include in your work, for example figures and other statistics from secondary sources (such as books, journal articles or newspaper reports); the results of experiments; or data that you have collected and analysed as part of a project or dissertation. Such information can be used to illustrate an argument or convey complex or detailed information in a concise manner.

There are three main methods of presenting such information:

  • it can be incorporated into the main body of text;
  • it can be presented separately as a table; or
  • it can be used to construct a graph or chart.

Determining which of these methods is the most appropriate depends upon the amount of data you are dealing with and their complexity. The choice about whether to use text, tables or graphs requires careful consideration if you are to ensure that your reader or audience understands your argument and is not left struggling to interpret data that are poorly presented or in an inappropriate format.

It is crucial to remember that when using a table or graph the associated text should describe what the data reveal about the topic; you should not need to describe the information again in words.

For example:

86% of male students said they regularly ate breakfast compared to 62% of female students.
If you are discussing three or more numbers, including them within the main body of text does not facilitate comprehension or comparison and it is often more useful to use a table incorporated within the text. For example:
53% of male students said that they always ate breakfast, 33% said that they usually did, and 14% said that they never ate breakfast.
Is more clearly expressed as:
Male students said they ate breakfast:

Always 53%
Usually 33%
Never 14%

In order to help the reader compare the numbers it is also useful to list them according to their magnitude (e.g. from large to small) unless there is a particular pattern or trend in the data that you want to highlight.
In general, numbers are usually given as digits rather than spelt out in the text, e.g. 400 rather than four hundred. However, in some academic journals the convention is to spell out whole numbers between one and ten and use values for all other numbers - so you may wish to find out what the usual practice is within your own discipline.

Information Styles – Tactile Images

Tactile Images are images converted into a format for people who cannot explore the real version. For instance NASA is a government owned body and therefor the images takes by NASA are made available to the public for public use. These images are extremely high definition and detailed, they are used by researchers around the world for the benefit of human kind.

Similarly images like medical 3D images of the human body are created and used by medical surgeons around the world for all sorts of reasons. Tactile imagery means to provoke a sense of feel or touch, they are designed to be more interactive and malleable for the target audience. This is often used in children’s books to portray a feeling like fur or smooth, to invoke a reaction from the audience that is beyond words. In terms of data and portraying information is limited in its use. 3d charts, graphs, maps etc, have their uses like election time but they are more designed to impress than benefit.

Information Styles - Subtitles

Subtitles (e.g. translated speech for a film in a foreign language) – This has been a common form of use since the silent movie days in video form or from footnotes in books. They are designed to be accurate, in keeping with the action and not obtrusive to the action. They are usually written in simple sans serif format to make them easier to read in a hurry and tend to have rules such as:

Subtitlers must always work with a (video, DVD, etc.) copy of the production and if possible, should have a copy of the dialogue list and a glossary of unusual words, names and special references.

  • It is the subtitler's job to spot the production and translate and write the subtitles in the (foreign) language required.
  • Translation quality must be high with due consideration of all idiomatic and cultural nuances.
  • Straightforward semantic units must be used.
  • Where compression of dialogue is necessary, the results must be coherent.
  • Subtitle text must be distributed from line to line and page to page in sense blocks and/or grammatical units.
  • As far as possible, each subtitle should be semantically self-contained.

Information Styles - Boolean

The use of Boolean (e.g. yes or no answer on a form) is not necessary but is often used to simply narrow down the mistakes made by users inputting information and by speeding up the process of data input. There are different forms of Boolean used for different purposes such as:

  • Yes OR No
  • True OR False
  • A OR B
  • 1 OR 2

Other forms include AND

  • E,g, Christmas AND EASTER

NOT

  • E.g. >10 NOT 12

Each of these is used when running queries within a database, or to limit a form when an input mask is not used.

Information Styles – Tables and Spreadsheets

Tables and spreadsheets (e.g. simple database tables and spreadsheets) are one of the most common forms of disseminating information that is too detailed to be written as individual sentences.

Spreadsheets – Everything is in a table to begin with and then they information is defined by individual sheets or by a structure within a sheet. For example, an invoice would be one table, one sheet, but it might pick up information fro other sheets using vlookups or cell referencing.

Databases - A table is a data structure that organizes information into rows and columns. A database table is similar in appearance to a spreadsheet. For instance in a Cars Database, the type of car and model would be in one table, the number on the lot would be in another, where purchased from in a third etc. These would then be linked (if data integrity is initiated) by a Key field to maintain referential integrity.

Charts and graphs (e.g. identifying trends, making comparisons) are the visible result of the information presented within a table in either a spreadsheet or a database.

The information within these represents the data and is usually automatically updated when the data changes. There are 4 main types:
Bar chart – Such as monthly sales where figures and trends can be compared.

Pie charts – represents a whole area with each piece of data taking a percentage slice such as votes in an election.

Line charts – Good for showing trends like a break even chart and represents the progression or regression of a set of figures.

Scatter graph – a used geographical or statistical chart to represent a range of varied data set against an XY axis to determine plus or minus contingencies.

These charts are very customizable for the purpose and audience such as people shapes to represent populations or house shapes to represent number of house sales.

Information Styles – Braille Printing

Braille text (e.g. written report printed on a Braille printer
Braille is a tactile reading system that was invented in France in the mid-1800s and is named for its inventor, Louis Braille. There are two versions: Alphabetical braille and Literary braille.

The dot positions are identified by numbers from one through six. 64 solutions are possible from using one or more dots. A single cell can be used to represent an alphabet letter, number, punctuation mark, or even an entire word. In the face of screen-reader software, braille usage has declined. For a blind person, printing a report in Braille is good for several reasons:

  • Reduces the bias against blind people
  • Means it can be read
  • Will be available in printed form for customers.

The downside is that Braille printing and Braille written form is very large and requires 6 times the space to store.

Information Classifications

The old saying 'information is power' is more true in our technology driven world than ever before. The disclosure of sensitive data into the public realm can often result in severe financial loss and reputation destruction. Information that may be exposed could include trade secrets, credit card numbers, health records, financial data, customer details and other types of sensitive information.

This information can be used by competitors to commit crimes or to engage in unethical business practices. In addition, for many organisations the disclosure of certain information may breach regulatory guidelines and result in penalties being levied.

Classifications we will need to cover include:

  • sensitive
  • non-sensitive
  • private
  • public
  • personal
  • business
  • confidential
  • classified
  • partially anonymised
  • completely anonymised.

Private - Private information is subject to controls on access, such as only allowing valid logons from a small group of staff. ‘Restricted’ information must be held in such a manner that prevents unauthorised access i.e. on a system that requires a valid and appropriate user to log in before access is granted. Information defined as Personal Data by the Data Protection Act falls into this category. Disclosure or dissemination of this information is not intended, and may incur some negative publicity, but is unlikely to cause severe financial or reputational damage.

Confidential - Confidential information has significant value for companies, and unauthorised disclosure or dissemination could result in severe financial or reputational damage, including fines of up to £500,000 from the Information Commissioner’s Office, the revocation of contracts and the failure to win future bids. Data that is defined by the Data Protection Act as Sensitive Personal Data falls into this category. Only those who need explicitly need access must be granted it, and only to the least degree in order to do their work (the ‘need to know’ and ‘least privilege’ principles). When held outside a business site, on mobile devices such as laptops, tablets or phones, or in transit, ‘Confidential’ information must be protected behind an explicit logon and by encryption at the device, drive or file level.

Sensitive - Sensitive information is data that must be protected from unauthorised access to safeguard the privacy or security of an individual or organization such as medical records, home addresses, bank information etc.

Public - Public information can be disclosed or disseminated without any restrictions on content, audience or time of publication. Disclosure or dissemination of the information must not violate any applicable laws or regulations, such as privacy rules. Modification must be restricted to individuals who have been explicitly approved by information owners to modify that information, and who have successfully authenticated themselves to the appropriate computer system.

Personal - Sensitive personally identifiable information is data that can be traced back to an individual and that, if disclosed, could result in harm to that person. Such information includes biometric data, medical information, personally identifiable financial information (PIFI) and unique identifiers such as passport or Social Security numbers. Threats include not only crimes such as identity theft but also disclosure of personal information that the individual would prefer remained private. Sensitive PII should be encrypted both in transit and at rest.

Business information - Sensitive business information includes anything that poses a risk to the company in question if discovered by a competitor or the general public. Such information includes trade secrets, acquisition plans, financial data and supplier and customer information, among other possibilities. With the ever-increasing amount of data generated by businesses, methods of protecting corporate information from unauthorised access are becoming integral to corporate security. These methods include metadata management and document sanitation.

Classified information - Classified information pertains to a government body and is restricted according to level of sensitivity (for example, restricted, confidential, secret and top secret). Information is generally classified to protect security. Once the risk of harm has passed or decreased, classified information may be declassified and, possibly, made public.

Partially anonymised - Anonymisation is the removal of information that could lead to an individual being identified, either on the basis of the removed information or this combined with other information held by the company. The Data Protection Act 1998 regulates the handling of "personal data". For day-to-day purposes, "personal data" is information about living, identifiable individuals. It is good data protection practice to limit the number of people that have access to personal data. In some cases, this can be done by anonymising the information. In particular, when personal data is to be shown to a wider audience it will be, in most circumstances, appropriate to anonymise it.

Example scenario

You are working on a research project that involves data about people, not everyone involved in the project may need to know the identity of the research subjects. If you are giving a presentation about the research, it is extremely unlikely that the identity of the subjects, or information that could lead to them being identified, is necessary for the presentation.

Completely anonymised - Information is fully anonymised if there are at least 3-5 individuals to whom the information could refer. For example, if your data relates to an individual of a specific gender and ethnicity living at a certain postcode you can increase the number of people to whom it could refer by only using the first 3 digits of the postcode.

Non-sensitive - This refers to information that is already a matter of public record or knowledge. With regard to government and private organisations, access to or release of such information may be requested by any member of the public, and there are often formal processes laid out for how to do so. The accessibility of government-held public records is an important part of government transparency, accountability to its citizens, and the values of democracy. Public records may furthermore refer to information about identifiable individuals that is not considered confidential, including but not limited to: census records, criminal records, sex offender registry files, and voter registration.

Information Classifications - Scenarios

  • A student wants to know what information is written about them on the school network and is asking the receptionist to see it.
  • A parent of a 14 year old is asking to see the medical information in a hospital on their daughter.
  • A school wants to put images of students on sports day on to the website.
  • A school wants to put the current student grades and feedback sheets on a shared folder so students can access these from home without a login.
    A student is using the class tracking sheet for a project on excel formulas.
  • Student images are stored on the public network drive for an art project.
    The medical information of a dead person is being used by a newspaper to highlight an incident.
  • A member of staff is leaving and backs up the department folder onto a memory stick.

Quality of information - Characteristics

The Quality of information used within a company is important, a lot of information from an unreliable source is useless, detracting, whereas a small amount of information from a reliable source, or a valid source, could be invaluable to a company’s finances and legal status.

Reliability of data sources – Companies get into the habit of using the same sources of information, Schools look at previous schools, Businesses use references, other companies use Ombudsmen to source their information. A reliable source is a company who supplies on time, in tact, detailed and useful information. There are no rules, news sources get it wrong sometimes.

Source reliability sometimes comes down to first hand or second hand sources, primary or secondary, companies tend to limit down the possible risks by verifying sources. In standard journalism like Television it is the policy to use three reliable sources before a news article goes on the air. In printed materials from university quoted sources tend to be Primary.

Validity – Unlike reliability which is a matter of opinion, validity means verified sources. Just because the user trusts the sources (reliable) it might not be the best source for the material, it might lack qualification, it might lack detail. Some people see Wikipedia as a reliable source because a lot of people have read it and corrected it but not as a valid one. If a user can change the information through opinion then it is no longer valid and Wiki is an opinion based site.

For website sources companies like whois.domaintools.com verifies the validity of a site, age, hits, links, Dmoz and Yahoo counts etc. but this is still down to the user to confirm that the information on the site is the best information for the purpose.

Relevance – Information overkill, having too much information that gets in the way of relating what needs to be said. The Data Protect Act stops companies from gathering too much irrelevant information for a purpose but does not stop a company from using too much irrelevant information to tell the customer what they need to know. Companies prefer to have the answer asked rather than additional information. This is the reason Secondary companies are hired to do market research, they come back with the answers, not more questions.

Similarly the amount of information given to the customer is related to the relevance of the information. We buy our mobiles knowing what pixel depth it is, memory capacity, response speed and video transfer rate but we will only care about one of these, the one that made us buy the phone.

Time frame - How long information is relevant for is down to the need for the information and the content of the information. Schools need to keep student information up to three years after they have left but Apple only need to know what you liked about the iPhone 3 up to 3 months after the i{Phone 4 came out. Likes change according to the user, age does not change more than once a year. All information is relevant for the period of the informational needs, and by law companies need to lose that information when it is no longer time relevant.
At the end of the day companies get to decide if the time frame has passed for the usefulness of the information.

Accessible – How accessible the in formation is can restrict a company from using it. The Census takes place every 10 years, the information within it will change daily, access to more up to date information related to the census can take time and needs to be funded privately. For every piece of informational need there is, there will be a company who supplies it or one who has already sought it. For some companies accessible can mean financial, if they cannot afford it then they will do without it. Other restrictions in terms of access can include:

  • Legal reasons – There might be copyright, an injunction, restricted to another country, security restricted.
  • Financial – might cost too much, might be a charge on use, might involve using too many staff to get the information or an external company to source it.
  • Time restricted – not supplied in time like a company report, not available to the new tax year, in the process of updating
  • Too Personal – under the Data protection Act, contains sensitive information, not the kind of thing to ask

Quality – In terms of information gathering the quality of the information is as important as time or relevance. Companies need the most up to date, most relevant and valid information, these all add up to quality as well as the right information, using the right data, gathered and worked out ion the right method, formulated and analysed. For a school we would expect all the information from previous schools from attendance to behaviour, grades sporting achievement, family information to learning needs. There is a lot of information in there about each student and all useful to someone.

Quality of information for a school comes down to conciseness, compatibility, depth, structure and consistency. For companies this might also include accuracy, detail, relationships between information and industry relation.

Cost-effective – You get what you pay for, this is true for information as well, the quality and standard of the information is down to cost. Census information is free, local government information, certain statistics are free, everything else costs. Companies work to a deadline and settle for the information they have if time is running out. Companies set aside a budget for information gathering and manipulation, every department works within that budget, Online surveys are free, computers can gather the results and draw comparisons for free, they can be linked so all opinions on qualitative data is stored separately for free but this still does not make it the best way to gather information. Companies choose their data gathering tools for different reasons, cost is one of the larger more deliberate reasons.

Appropriate – They say they 49.99% of all adults are taller than average. They say that 22% of all statistics are made up, just like this one. Surveys on the street are rushed, people rarely like being stopped on the street to answer questions for they give false results to get through it. The solution is to ask more people, if 1 person in 10 lies that is 10%, if 25 in 1000 like that is 2.5%. If the method of data collection requires 100 responses then this will give a more accurate response. Similarly if a survey is asking about shopping habits and is done at 9.30 on a Tuesday morning, responses can be influenced, this is signing on day when there are more unemployed people around to throw out the results. Asking about IT skills in an online survey means the user will already have some skills already to be on the computer filling it out. The appropriateness of the timing, the location, the kind of data responses all can have an impact on the data gathering.

Information Management

When it comes to information management, there are stages a company goes through to get the source information in raw format into used information that benefits sales. Once the company receives its information in the form of raw data, it then transfers that data into usable information. This is called Handling of Information. Different departments within a company manage that information in different ways and interpret that information for different purposes. For instance IT will transfer information onto the system without the need to analyse it, Marketing will analyse specific parts of the information, sales will analyse their parts, admin their section. But it all comes from one stored source.

Collecting, storing and retrieving information

Collection and Storage: A school will collect client information from Primary Schools in raw format, all the next year’s students that are coming, their addresses, ages, learning grades, medical information etc. The IT department school will put this onto the system as one large data stream and store it. SIMS will then break down this information into year groups and categorise the information. This is how it is collected and stored.

A school will also collect statistical information from exam results across the country and store that as a saved database link as a separate data stream. This is different information and saved in a different format. This is public information and therefor does not need to be as securely stored.

They will collect funding information and store this as a separate data stream, this needs to be as secure as the personal information of the students but is a separate data type. Additionally, they will need contractual information from their staff and from suppliers, two additional data types with different levels of security and structure. And then there are other data streams, country, county and local statistics on SEN, statistics on EAL, FSM etc. All these have their own methods of collection and methods of storage that have to be taken into consideration before the school day can even begin.

Retrieving, Manipulating and Processing (Analysing) information

Manipulation – Once the information has been received it is then disseminated, departments takes the information from a central source, usually just the network but for a school this will be SIMS, and then use that information in their own way. Warehousing will use purchasing order information for delivery and collection, R&D use product and component pricing information for development costs.
How the departments process that information is up to them, this could be in the form of charts, tables, invoices, but it needs to be done in a way that can be understood by that department. For a school the student data will be produced into spread sheets generated from SIMS so they can use it in the classroom, staff will manipulate the data into information that is useful for them.

Retrieval – The methods of retrieval needs to be in keeping with the staff and their abilities in order for the function of the data to work. For most companies the information needs to be at the end of a phone call or key press. When a customer rings the bank and gives their account details and security measures, the information should then be available to the person on the other end of the phone, the quicker and more available this is, the happier the customer is likely to be. Paper versions should be in the same room, invoices stored in folders in the same way we would expect a student to be able to find their own files.

Analysing information - Information from one Data Source can be analysed and drawn into charts, tables, compared and used, information from multiple data streams can be viewed against additional targets like trends, upcoming problems etc. A successful company is a company that can analyse figures and make preparations or predictions.

Securing information

All information is affected by external sources of influence, falls in console sales happen in Summer but sales in Sun Cream goes up. For any company, breaking down the statistics and comparing them leads to a better understanding. In schools we compare grades against everything, EAL, SEN, G&T, M/F, this allows us to adapt how we deliver lessons, how we track and monitor, then we review the results again and see if it helps. Apple, Easyjet, and local Chip Shops do the same, analyse, prepare, adapt, review, the four stages of business improvement.

Transmitting and communicating information.

When the information is collated, prepared, analysed and reviewed, how it is then presented to the next person will vary according to the job, nature and attributes of the target. A statistical manager will produce tables of information but present charts to their managers. Marketing will take sales information and present it in the form of proposals to managers, company directors take all the information about values and present it to share holders in the form of finished analysis and reports. There are many forms of presentation as there are different client and audience needs.