What are the characteristics of good information?

The characteristics of good information include accuracy, reliability and accessibility to name a few. Below we’ll discuss more characteristics of good information in detail…

Valid information is information that is accurate and reliable so that no mistakes or errors can be made. The reason for this is that if information is invalid, it can lead to the wrong decisions being made.

Reliable information is information that is gathered from a valid and trusted source and can be relied upon to be correct. An example would be sales information from the sales department which is given to the finance department about the sales figures for a specific period. This is trusted and valid as it comes from an internal source.

Timely information is information that is given for a correct time period. Profit and loss analysed by a company would need to access current sales figures and not access past sales figures from several years ago. Also, timely information can be information that is available when it is needed. If a company want to check sales figures for today, timely information would be the information from the cash register, at the time they wanted it.

Fit for purpose
Fit for purpose information is information that is relevant only for the task at hand. If a business was opening in Birmingham, then it would be a good idea to look at the population within an area around where you wanted to open. If you looked at the population of London then this information wouldn’t be fit for purpose.

Much like a ramp for the disabled which ensures easy access, accessible information should be stored in a way the makes it easily accessible at the time it’s needed. For example if it took an hour to look at the sales figures in a cash register and print them, then that information would not be easily accessible. Good information should be easily accessible as the users need to have it as and when they need it.

Cost effective
Information that is worth investing time and money in to get help with your business would be cost effective information. For example, if you paid for a survey to be done by a company and it cost you £1,000 and the information gathered increased your profit by £1,500 then this could be seen as cost effective information. Although if you spent £50,000 and only seen an increase of £100 next month, this would not be seen as cost effective. Information that costs less to put together than the profit from analysing and using the information to increase profits is what is cost effective information.

Correct decision making relies upon accurate information. If your car showed that you were going 20 mph less than you were actually going then this may result in you breaking the law.  In the same way if a sales department gave inaccurate sales information to the finance department, it may result in the incorrect tax information and could land the company in trouble with the tax man.

Information that directly relates to the business need. If a bakery was looking at the price of sand, this wouldn’t be relevant information (unless they were somehow incorporating sand in to their products). If a business was looking for way to cut costs they may look at their incoming bills such as electricity to try and see where they could save money. Looking at the price of ingredients they use would be relevant to the bakery.

Level of Detail
The requested information must have enough detail to provide an acceptable answer. For example if the manager wants to see a summary of the sales figures for the last six months, the information with the right level of detail would show overall figures for each month plus a grand total. If the manager received a complete breakdown of all the sales for all products sold in a large report, this would be seen as the wrong level of detail and wouldn’t really be a summary.  It is important to understand what the person is requesting when presenting the information.

Reliable Source
Information that is obtained for a business purpose should be gathered from a reliable and trustworthy source. If you wanted the information about the population of Birmingham, then Wikipedia might not be seen as a 100% reliable source. If you researched government census data for Birmingham on a government website then this would be seen as an accurate source.

Understandable by user
Information given or used for a business purpose has to be understood by the end user. If a person with very limited IT skills calls a help-desk to try and solve a printing problem, talking to the caller using IT jargon wouldn’t be understood by the end user. Having empathy and being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes helps you to answer the question in a manner which the other person can understand.