What is good information?

When learning about information systems you need to to understand and discuss the characteristics of good information. So what is good information? Good information is information that companies store to help them run their business successfully. Good information has certain characteristics such as validity, reliability, timeliness, being fit for a certain purpose, accessibility, relevance and many more. Be able to understand and use good information and how it is stored in information systems helps to make positive business decisions.

The information stored in an information system should be valid for the purpose that it being used. Valid information is information that you understand to be correct and fit for the purpose that is needed. For example if an IT company wanted to calculate the cost of delivering PCs to customers they would need to ensure that they calculated the costs based on the correct information. Valid information in this case would be the number of litres of fuel that were used for the delivery and the correct cost of the fuel at the time of the delivery. This is valid and good information as it would enable the company to make the correct calculations as the information is valid.

Another characteristic of good information is reliability. Good and reliable information is information that is taken from a source that you know to be reliable. For example if an IT company wanted to install new hard drives on it networked PCs it could ring hard drive supplies or check their official website for the price of the hard drives to make sure that they could make reliable calculations. If they tried to source the price of the drives through an online magazine that was published 2 years ago they could not rely on this as it may be out of date information. Good information will always enable you to make the correct decision as you can guarantee that it is correct and reliable.

Going back to the previous example, the information needs to be timely. By timely information we mean that it is both up to date and available as and when you need it. If you rang a hardware manufacturer looking for the price of a component that you wanted to buy then the sales agent would need to be able to access the information quickly to needs a good level of customer service. If the price can be provided by accessing a sales database with a limit amount of communication then this can be seen as providing timely information.

If you are researching something and want to figure out information that is relevant to what you need then you need to access information that is fit for purpose. If your PC repair business wanted to expand and open a new branch in the South west of the UK then it would be wise to research the population of the major cities using up to day information from local authorities. you could also research the employment rate and survey the percentage of population that has a PC. This information would be fit for purpose as it is from reliable sources and would enable you to make the correct business decision.

Accessible information is information that can be easily accessed as and when needed. If information that you needed about an old product that you needed to fix was not readily available as it was not online then it would not be seen as accessible information. New technology products are normally supported by an online guide and FAQ that makes accessing information about the products quick and easy.

Cost effective information is information that can be obtained at a reasonable cost. If your business wanted to develop a new simple information app that would not make much profit then sourcing information needed to make the app would need to be cheap. An online PDF on developing an information app that cost twenty pound would be much more cost effective that purchasing an online training course for thousands of pounds. Another example would be if you were to pay for a survey then the costing of the survey would need to be considered when looking at the long term business goals of using the information.

To further discuss the characteristics of good information we need to look at using information that is sufficiently accurate. Sufficiently accurate means that the information is up to date and accurate and from a reliable source. If an IT company wanted to source new computers and one of their procurement team started to research what to buy they would not just purchase the first on they seen if the website they looked at advertised the machines as “the best PCs in the world”.  They need to research a number of different machines and compare the technical components and price so that they can make an accurate assumption on what PC to purchase for the company.

Another characteristic of good information is relevance. Information is relevant if it is related to what you are using it for. If a company planned to update their anti-virus software they would find the relevant update instructions on the supplier of the AV software’s website. If they tried to source the update instructions from a book that is more than 2 or 3 years old this information may not be 100% relevant to their current needs in terms of updating the AV software.

Information also needs to have the right level of detail. An example of having the right level of detail would be when a company was building a number of  new PCs. They would need to research the exact component requirements for the PC so that they have the correct level of detail to calculate how much it will cost for everything needed to create the system. This would also include software and the number of new systems required. If the number of systems is not identified in advance then multi-buy discount could not be sourced and an accurate calculation could not be made as the purchaser would not have the right level of detail.

Having information from a source in which the user has confidence is also important to ensure you obtain good information. If you are researching a technical article for a website you need to source information from reliable technical sources such as books or manufacturers manuals. If you went on to a random website such as yahoo answers and quoted people who may just be supplying information off the top of their head you cannot rely on this and would not have 100% confidence. However, if similar information was sourced from an expert on a website such as MDSN (Microsoft Developer Network) you can be confident that it is accurate and reliable as it comes from a recognised expert in the field.

Good information is information that is understandable by the user. For example if an app development company was creating a Maths learning application for under 5 the information used in the app needs to be understandable by this age group. It should include voice instructions and graphics appropriate to that age range. If the target age range for the maths learning application was for 11 to 13 year olds then more text could be used in the application as it can be assumed that children of this age can read. Making sure that information is understandable by the user automatically makes it good information.

If we ask “what is good information?” the above examples help explain and try to link to an IT company. Having good information is essential when sourcing and supplying information and focusing on good information will ensure that a business makes the correct choices by carefully considering everything that is required.