Cambridge Technical Introductory Diploma in IT

(Unit 2 - LO2)

Understand the styles, classification and management of global data


Standard of information

The Standard 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.

Importantly, I now think that you need to make sure that you refer back to the organisation that you have already studied. Examine a variety of data sources that you chosen company might use and for each consider the following headings. I would gather the comments about the information collected together so that each heading remains.

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 If a user can change the information through opinion then it is no longer valid and Wiki is an opinion based site.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 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.

It is very important that you know and can express the difference between reliability and validity - they are frequently misused and are not interchangeable.