Data and Information

Seasons Greetings for 2017

After having just published three rather lengthy articles in a series [1], here is a piece whose size is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

I am often asked to distinguish between data and information. Indeed this happened just the other day as part of LinkedIn discussions relating to some of my recent articles [2]. In the Data and Analytics Dictionary, I offer the following definition of Information:

Information is the first stop in the journey from Data to Information to Insight to Action. Data may be viewed as raw material, which needs to be refined in order to be useful. Information can be thought of as data enhanced with both relationships and understanding of context.

Here, I will look to be more visual in my definitions, hopefully also embracing the spirit of the time of year. In my opinion, the following image provides a good way to think about the difference between these two related concepts:

Data and Information

Consistent with my Dictionary definition, Information is something you get by organising data based on some knowledge of how it is meant to fit together.

As with most analogies, there are both some interesting ways to extend this and some areas in which it breaks down. In the first column, sometimes not all of the bricks you need are available or the right size (a data quality problem). In the second, you can clearly build a set of Lego bricks [3] into several different forms. It is to be hoped that data, particularly Financial data, is not massaged to provide more than one meaning.

However, I think the up-side of this simple analogy outweighs its fairly obvious limitations. I offer it to readers as a final thought before the 2017 holiday season commences.


The Anatomy of a Data Function, Parts I, II and III.
The discussions may be viewed here (you need to be a member of LinkedIn to view these).
Actually Duplo in this case.


From:, home of The Data and Analytics Dictionary


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