Data Rich, Information Poor Syndrome

Data RichTakeaway: We must be able to manage the data we collect. Data needs to be translated into relevant information. We want to avoid analysis paralysis and Data Rich Information Poor (DRIP) syndrome. Data should drive us forward not bog us down and hold us back.


In the 1970s, two philosophers published an essay on human fallibility. Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre were looking for the main reasons why we fail. They came up with two reasons:

  1.  Ignorance: Limited knowledge or understanding
  2.  Ineptitude: Knowledge exists, but we fail to apply it correctly

If we look at the practice of medicine; in the 1950s we still had very limited understanding of the cause and treatment of heart attacks. We had limited knowledge; Ignorance. Now we have a much better understanding of the cause, treatment, and prevention of heart attacks. 

The medical profession has gone from lack of knowledge to too much, and an inability to access it quickly, efficiently, and consistently. I am not knocking the medical profession. Doctors today are more prepared than ever before. Training in most medical fields is more intense than ever, demanding long hours and years of practice.

The World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases has grown to more than thirteen thousand different diseases, syndromes and types of injuries. Each requiring a specific treatment. We have gone from ignorance to more knowledge than we can manage.


Data Rich Information Poor (DRIP)

“Data Rich, Information Poor,” This businesses ailment comes with its own appropriate acronym; DRIP. Activity slows to a small drip as we try to sift through mountains of data.

What is your information environment like? This is a central question Nektar Data Systems asks its clients. A healthy information environment is to your business what a clean windshield is to your car. It enables you to see where you’re going. We proceed with confidence. 

The goal is to collect data that can be converted quickly into usable information. We must be able to access information we need when we need it.

I have seen companies harvest significant amounts of data, only to file it away. Much of it on paper. There are many reasons for collecting data.  From internal process control, to marketing analysis, and regulatory compliance.

Thanks to cloud storage, we are no longer limited to the amount of data we can store. We need to ensure:

  1. We are collecting the right data (What’s required to drive company goals and meet objectives, compliance, and liability.)
  2. The data can be easily converted into information.
  3. The information is easily retrieved and understood.

Complexity is an enemy for all business-related activities. The best of us can mentally freeze up when hit with an avalanche of raw data.

Collect the right data: We are setting our companies up for success by clearly stated goals and performance indicators. This sounds easy, but I have seen it missed more than I can remember. Make sure business goals are set and understood, along with why they are important to the company.  

Imagine you want to lose weight. You understand the importance of using the bathroom scale daily to monitor progress. If that is the only data collected, progress will be slow (if any), and frustration will ensue. The scale and weight are lagging indicators. We need leading indicators. We need leading indicators such as measuring:

  • Calories consumed
  • Calories burned
  • Calorie quality (fats, proteins, carbohydrates)

We will change KPIs based on business needs. Therefore, a set goal with supporting objectives is all-important. We are creating cause and effect for driving behavior.

Data converted into information: I have an engineer friend that loves to crunch numbers. I have watched him smile ear-to-ear while being handed a mountain of raw data to sift through. He looked like a kid on Christmas, getting the toy of his dreams. If you have someone like that, good for you, but software may be a better solution.

Smartphones and tablets can be used to record data with simple, intuitive programs. Let the right software convert numbers into usable information. We want the transformation of data into usable information to happen seamlessly, and behind the scenes. The goal is gaining actionable information, not spending time decoding a mountain of data.

Make information easy to retrieve and understand: Software can provide the best method of accomplishing this. Once again, simplicity is our friend as we use smartphones and tablets to place information in the hands of those that need it.

Information stored in the Cloud can be shared with the push of a button. When we make activities easy to perform, teams are quicker to embrace them. Information drives behavior. It must be easy to obtain and understand. 


Gaining Control of DRIP Syndrome

Here are some strategies for gaining control when dealing with DRIP:

80/20 Rule: What activities are providing the most revenue? What activities are most important to your customers? Focus on these and shift focus with time as needed. Let this guide you on what is the most important data to collect and use today.

Super-Specialize: This is how the medical community is handling increased medical knowledge. They have more experts with a narrower scope. This is another reason why having clear business goals is so vital. Excel in your field and rely on experts to help in areas outside your expertise. 

Use Technology: Make better use of software and technology to do data gathering, analysis, and retrieval. We do not need to spend large amounts of time gathering required information. Mobile devices and cloud storage are perfect for this.

These simple strategies will help cure DRIP syndrome. Data collecting, conversion to information, and easy retrieval is the goal. Make sure your data gathering is driving you forward and not bogging you down.