IT intelligence: using information

Robin Fisk begins a series of articles about how best to find and use information.

We need good information to make good decisions. But how can we discover whether our information is 'good' before we actually risk making a decision based upon it? The following criteria may help.

First, information must be relevant. Your data must be pertinent and not used out of context. For example, is it better to count the number of donations or their total value when comparing fundraiser performance?

Second, it must be presented clearly. Information is ignored if it is hard to read and impenetrable.

It must be accurate - not only true, but also going into an appropriate level of detail. For example, there is no need to count turnover to the penny.

Information should be rounded and complete to ensure it is trusted. And it ought to be demonstrably trustworthy. Information must be corroborated with other sources or compared with anticipated results.

It should be concise. Over-complicated or over-long material will not hold the attention of the audience.

It must be timely. If it takes too long to compile or is out of date before you get it, it's not good information.

It needs to go out to the right people. If the intended audience does not consume the information, it is wasted. It could also be damaging if it were seen by the wrong audience.

It must be delivered through the right channels. For example, service-delivery information should appear on a website or an intranet, not buried deep on the company file server.

And finally, information must be cost-effective. If it takes three days a month to compile donor-retention statistics, it is unlikely to be worth the effort.

In two weeks' time, I will examine sources of and demand for data.

- Robin Fisk is managing director of CRM software company Fisk Brett.

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