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Part 1: Data and information – What’s the difference and why does it matter when considering data transformation and data assurance software solutions

If you take a moment to go and browse the meaning of the word ‘information’ you’ll soon find that it can be thought of as ‘the resolution of uncertainty’. If you gather information, it can answer the question of what an entity is, what it’s for and what its characteristics are. What that information is though, and how you make use of it can vary wildly, depending on the context.

The power of data

I appreciate this is an esoteric way to start a blog post, but we see it time and time again; organisations that don’t plan what information they want at the start of a project, don’t get the answers they need at the end. The concept of information is synonymous with notions of constraint, control, form and function, education, knowledge, meaning, understanding, communication and patterns. Most notably for what 1Spatial does, information hinges on data.

‘Data’ becomes ‘information’ that you can interpret. It’s an important distinction but to have a chance of that information being useful you must collect it, store it and manage it correctly, and you must always have the end in sight. Data becomes information and information allows you to act.

We had a guest speaker at an online event last year who gave this gem of insight, and though a little paraphrased by me here, the point was “forget about the system, focus on the data”. Now whilst that might seem obvious, it was said in the context of a multi-year project. The project itself doesn’t matter, but the passage of time does. In a scenario where data is going to be used across a long timeframe, it’s much more important to focus on how to capture and maintain a dataset; ensuring it goes through continual quality improvement programs and making sure you have some form of custodian to look after it. 

These things are a hundred times more important than determining the system within which you’re going to use the data. Systems come and go, and chances are that the data will be stored and visualised in a very different database and system in 2 years’ time, let alone in 10 years. So, focus on the data, but focus on it in the context of its use. Make sure that you work with the end users to understand the information that they need to derive, and when you have a feel for that, use it as a way of designing the schema, the frequency of update and the resolution. Oh, and then go back and check with them that you got it right, because it’s likely there will have been some differing interpretation… 

How 1Spatial can help

At 1Spatial we care about the information because we help our customers get the data right first. So, if you’re just starting out on a new project and need support in working out how best to look after your data as you transform it and assure (validate) it, then get in touch. Equally if you already have lots of data but the quality of it is such that you’re not able to extract and assure the information you need, again, we can help. 

We provide software solutions to extract, transform, assure and load data and we’ve developed that skill over 30 years, building our own software and partnering with best of breed organisations so that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

In part 2 of this blog series, we will look at how 1Spatial have a suite of products, including 1Integrate and FME, to help organisations extract, transform, assure and load their data, ensuring past, present, and future data is fit for purpose.

David Eagle, FME Division Manager at 1Spatial

Part 2: How the 1Spatial Platform and FME can build trust in data

Find out how 1Spatial's suite of products, including 1Integrate and FME, help organisations extract, transform, assure and load their data, ensuring past, present, and future data is fit for purpose. Read examples from the Environment Agency, Rural Payments Agency and Ordnance Survey Ireland.

Read Part 2