The Use and Misuse of Information

Intoday?s well-named ?Information Age,? we are totally dependent on data in bothour personal and professional lives. No matter what we need or want to know, wecan find it by searching the Web, getting an RSS feed, checking the corporatedatabase, logging on to various social networks, emailing or texting acolleague, or?for the more traditional individuals among us?reading a newspaperor magazine. 

Thatdependency can cause problems, but the difficulty isn?t caused by theinformation itself. It?s caused by the enormous volume of information that?savailable, as well as the ways in which we find, categorize, store, secure,access and disseminate data.

Inour cover story, ?Riding the Information Wave?,contributing writer Sam Greengard reports on two related technologies?businessintelligence and business analytics?that can help resolve some of the problemscaused by the massive amounts of structured and unstructured informationorganizations must manage. With these technologies, enterprises can?substantially boost their return on technology and business investments,? saysJohn Lucker, a principal at Deloitte Consulting.

BIand BA tools pull data from a wide variety of sources, including businessapplications, corporate databases, financial ledgers and R&D documents, aswell as unstructured data from emails, instant messages, podcasts, videos andsocial networks. This data can then be consolidated, analyzed and pulled intoreports to uncover trends and patterns that can help spot businessopportunities.

Inshort, BI and BA systems can turn mounds of unrelated data into targeted,relevant information that can be used to make good business decisions. So whyaren?t more companies taking advantage of these tech tools?

Oneof the problems is that these technologies can be complicated for IT toassemble and less than intuitive for businesspeople to use. But that?s changingas the technology continues to improve and a growing number of executivesrecognize the value of these tools.

Anotherdata-related problem is not as easy to resolve: the misuse of information. Thattakes many forms, and it?s often caused by people rather than technology. Anobvious example is when employees input inaccurate information into theircompany?s database, either by mistake or deliberately to get back at theiremployers. Or they store data in the wrong electronic file. In othersituations, data is lost through human or technical error?or a naturaldisaster?and wasn?t backed up properly.

Theseproblems can be fixed with the right technology and the right policies.

Sadly,there?s another category of information misuse that involves a lack of ethicsand supervision. The most recent example is the phone-hacking scandal of RupertMurdoch?s News of the World, in which the paper?s reporters invaded the voicemails?and the privacy?of hundreds, possibly thousands, of people.

Andthe potential for such abuse continues to grow as the volume of informationincreases at a dramatic rate. In ?A Data Governance Primer? ,author Jill Dych? writes, ?Standard industry intelligence says that corporatedata volumes double every 18 months, but mobile and online data are growing atan even faster clip.? 

Clearly,as more individuals gain access to information, there are more chances for thatinformation to be misused. So it behooves business and technology executives toimplement policies and technologies to protect their company?s data, which, inturn, will protect their employees, customers, business partners and, in caseslike the News of the World scandal, the broader population. 

JillDych? also notes that ?Data should be owned by the business, whichcircumscribes its definition, rules, access and usage policies.? That includesproviding oversight, managing risks and assessing compliance. She adds that ?IThas a role to play as well ? in the tactical execution of data governancepolicies and decisions.? 

Ithas become obvious that combining information and advanced technologies withoutproviding ethical guidelines and policies for their use is a recipe fordisaster. It?s a failure of leadership?of accountability?that goes right to thetop of the organization.

Soit has to be fixed at the top?now!

More Stories