Data, Information, Knowledge, Insight

Back in the last millennium when I was studying Information Systems at university, there was a hierarchy of value that went a little like this: data was the least valuable stuff – it was just numbers (sometimes just 0s and 1s); information was next up the stack – it had some sort of meaning, but there was an awful lot of it; knowledge became useful, because it was about the application of information; and insight was the most useful of all because insight was where you were able to use your knowledge to draw some sort of conclusion.

Now it’s all only words, but yesterday in discussions about the things that differentiate great CIOs from the rest, I had a moment of insight (that might be a bit strong a term): is the current business obsession with all things data an indictment of at least the meaninglessness of the Information in the CIO’s name, or at worst an indictment of how few CIOs have been able to do anything with information in their organisations?

There is a continuing threat to the CIO role: we are seeing Chief Technology Officers, Chief Digital Officers and now even Chief Data Officers emerge in the leadership suites of many organisations. Of course this might just be examples of the Chief Buzzword Officer phenomenon that has taken hold in the past decade (Found something your organisation doesn’t understand? Recruit a Chief Buzzword Officer to make all of your problems go away!).

But given that the CIO role has been around for a decade or more, the lack of focus on information in modern organisations should surely be of some sort of concern?

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