Traditionally we think about value in business in terms of assets—property, plants, equipment, inventory and even human resources. The explosion of technology over the last decade has made us re-think what is valuable. In fact, what many businesses today consider to be their most valuable asset cannot be held in your hand because it is the information generated by the collection of billions of bits of data. In fact, the data that businesses gather about their customers is, to the most progressive companies, invaluable! For example, when you visit a company’s website, data is captured about what you looked at: what colors you preferred, how long you remained on a page and yes, even your physical location.
Companies take that “data” and turn it into useful information. They can then use this information to push advertising to you, not just through their website but to your social media accounts, your email, and even your cell phone. As the collection of data becomes easier and more cost effective, businesses are constantly generating new and better information about the business environment. In this section you will learn the difference between data and information, the types of data that businesses collect, and, finally, how businesses use information.
Information flows in and out of a business in many different direction. The type of data a business collects is informed by a business’s goals and objectives. Computing systems can collect a dizzying array of data about the world around us. Businesses must decide what type of data they need to inform their business decisions and then determine where and how that data can be collected. The types of data that businesses collect can be broken down into 5 broad categories: business process, physical world observations, biological data, public data and personal data. Let’s examine each of these categories of data in greater detail.