What is Trusted Information?


I’ve always defined information as the combination of two types which can be expressed as a Data + Content = Information.  Data, also known as structured data is what can usually found in rows and tables of databases.  Content is defined as unstructured data (or everything not living in databases).  In simple terms, content can be images, media files, documents, spreadsheets, PDFs … you get the idea.  I’ve heard it said before that structured data can tell you the who, what, where and when of what happened but only unstructured can tell you the how and why … which is usually the most important part.  Together they represent the full context of any information scenario.  If you are reading this, you probably already subscribe to this line of thinking and also agree the two worlds are colliding as enterprises mature in how they manage and govern both types of information.  Over the next few blog postings, I plan to discuss Information Governance … the how … and the why … the two worlds are coming together and key strategies to address it.

You’ve probably all seen the statistics … 42% of managers say they inadvertently use the wrong information at least once per week and so on.  In this day and age … how is this possible?  Would you want your doctor making a decision about your life based on the wrong, or older version, of treatment guidance?  “Oh nurse, where did we put that updated information on how to treat this illness?”  It sounds absurd, but that’s exactly how most enterprises manage their information assets, particularly their content.  What are we missing here?

The answer is trust.  We need trust.  We need to be able to find the correct (or trusted) information, at the right time, when we are making decisions.  Considering the average information worker spends 14.5 hours reading and answering email, 13.3 hours creating documents, 9.6 hours searching for information, 9.5 hours analyzing information … this is a big deal.

So let’s start by defining it … Trusted Information is information that has business value requiring its governance and retention.  It has the properties of:

  • Authority:  it is up-to-date and recognized as the reference copy of the relevant information.
  • Authenticity:  it is what it says it is and can be linked back to its source.
  • Reliability:  it can be trusted as a full and accurate representation of the relevant facts, transaction or business process.
  • Integrity:  it is complete, unaltered and preserves context and chain of custody.
  • Usability:  it is accessible, and can be located, retrieved, presented and interpreted.

Trusted information must also be governed and lifecycle-managed from trusted environments such as repositories of record.  If the environment itself can’t be trusted, then neither can the information.

I’ll be going into more detail in the coming weeks, starting with storing information in trusted repositories, but in the mean time, do you agree with the above or have a different definition of trusted information?

3 thoughts on “What is Trusted Information?

  1. I completely agree with above definition of Trusted Information. However I think the scope of trust of information will vary across organizations or probably within various divisions of the organization. For example with in house instant messaging tools in corporates today, some of the vital decisions are based on casual communication..
    Manager: Did you get a chance to review the budget for next quarter?
    Director: Looks good, will do….btw lunch at Mandarin today?
    after 6 months VP @ AGM : Who is responsible for such bad numbers?
    and then we dig through all the documents and emails and get nothing. Seems the Manager is responsible, but how would he disprove that with one line of instant message?
    Taking into consideration the above definition of trusted information:
    Authority: true…it is a tool for communication established by the company
    Authenticity: Sure…in-house coversations are properly logged
    Reliability: Absolutely..relates to the time and people when this decision was made
    Integrity:If not then it is an IT administration problem
    Usability: The fact that it is being discussed
    Inspite of sattisfying all these requirements an instant message may still not be considered a strong and valid source of information.
    How do you think Information governance can be used to tackle this dilemna?

  2. Craig,

    My Wikibon colleagues and I define information a little differently than you have above.

    Data + content + business context = information; information + human capital = knowledge and insight

    As for trusted information, it seems that depending on the vendor, the user or the industry, you will get a different definition. Regardless of the fungibility of the “truth”, I completely agree that an Information Governance framework is a critical component in order for companies to manage their data or content and to lower the risks and costs associated with delivering business insight, meeting compliance and regulatory requirements as well as managing the lifecycle of information throughout its existence within the enterprise.

  3. Gary – You certainly have an enligthened perspective on this. One that gets at the ultimate value of Information Governance. I’ve always felt that good governance had a carrot and stick value prop. You do it because you have to and it’s punitive if you don’t (the stick) … but if you govern properly get the benefits of process optimization, new business insight and so forth (the carrot).

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