What are the main features of good quality information in a business? We summarise its key characteristics.
Good quality information is:
Information obtained and used should be needed for decision-making - it doesn't matter how interesting it is. Businesses are often criticised for producing too much information simply because their information systems can "do it". How can we make sure information is relevant?
Information needs to be timely if it is to be actioned. For example, the manager of a large retail business needs daily information on how stores are performing and which products are selling well (or not) so that immediate action can be taken. To improve the speed with which information is produced, businesses usually need to look at upgrading or replacing their information systems.
As far as possible, information should be free from errors, ie the figures add up. Users of information should be told whenever assumptions or estimates have been used.
Accurate information is usually a function of accurate data collection. If information needs to be extremely accurate, then more time needs to be allocated for it to be checked. However, businesses need to guard against trying to produce "perfect" information - it is often more important for the information to be up-to-date than perfect.
Different users have different needs: A managing director doesn't have time to trawl through thick printouts of the week's production or sales listings - he or she wants a summary of the key facts. A quality control supervisor will want detailed information about quality testing results rather than a brief one-line summary of how things are going. It's a good idea to encourage users to help develop the style and format of information reporting that they require.
Information should be clearly presented (eg, use summaries/charts) and concise. It also needs to be communicated using an appropriate medium (eg email, printed report, presentation). Businesses should also consider developing "templates" which are used consistently throughout the organisation so users get used to seeing information in a similar style.
Information costs money. Data is costly to collect, analyse and report. Information takes time to read and assimilate. All users should question whether the information they recieve/have requested is worthwhile.
Information should come from authoritative sources. It's good practice to quote the source used - whether it be internal or external sources. If estimates or assumptions have been applied, these should be clearly stated and explained.
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