2 - Information

Answers to exercises

From an information perspective, what is likely to be different about the customer service era compared to the forthcoming sustainability era?

The sustainability era will required the development of information systems that support the general goal of creating a sustainable civilization. Sensor networks will collect data about the state of environment and these will be critical to making decisions that reduce environmental impact

Why was the development of paper and writing systems important?

The development of paper and other writing systems was very important because they provided humans with a means to record and communicate knowledge. If written down, knowledge can be stored more reliably. Previously, knowledge was passed orally from person to person and since human brains are highly error-prone, much of the knowledge was forgotten or changed.

A good example are the four quite different stories about the life of Jesus written down in the New Testament by four different people several years after his death. Before this, stories of Jesus had been passed orally between people until four different people independently decided to write everything down. Although the authors wrote about the same person, their work resulted in quite different accounts of the life of Jesus.

What is the difference between rich and lean information exchange?

Information exchange also varies in the degree of information richness. During lean information exchange, only the bare data are communicated. No extra information is provided and no possibility exists to ask additional questions. Numeric documents are considered to be an extremely lean communication medium. They communicate the numbers and nothing else. During rich information exchange, not only are the spoken or written words or numbers communicated but also other information such as the tone of voice, highlighted parts, or face expressions. A face-to-face conversation is an extremely rich communication medium.

What is benchmarking? When might a business use benchmarking?

During benchmarking, actual performance is compared to a given goal. This goal is typically based on best industry practices. A business could use benchmarking in a variety of situations as long as the practices and numbers are comparable in a meaningful way. Typical applications for benchmarking include production time and order processing time.

Give some examples of how information is used as a means of change.

An example of how information is used as a means of change in marketing is the popularity of the frequent flyer programs of most airlines. These programs are aiming to enhance customer loyalty and facilitate the collection of customer information. Database technology sits at the heart of these programs to manage the large amounts of data collected. Without database technology, frequent flyer programs could not exist.

Describe the differences between the way managers handle hard and soft information.

As perceived hardness decreases, managers demand more information in the hope that more information might decrease the level of uncertainty inherent in soft information. For example, it is likely that the manager believes a written report produced by the company's MIS department that 90% of all orders for this week have been filled. On the other hand, if the secretary tells him that a rumor is spreading at the plant that the workers are planning to strike next week, he will try to find information from other sources to check the validity of this rumor.

Describe an incident where you used information satisficing.

Going shopping is a perfect example of information satisficing. When buying a certain product, only very few people actually look in every store to compare the prices, quality, and features of different brands. Typically, as long as these factors come close to meeting the customer's requirements, the product is bought to save time and effort.

What is a GIS? Who might use a GIS?

GIS stands for geographic information system. This system contains mostly graphical data about a geographic region. In effect, a GIS is a computerized map that can reveal additional or more detailed information at the click of a button. Often a GIS is used to keep an overview of a large geographical area. For example, in case of a fire, a city's GIS might point out where hazardous material is stored in the vicinity.

How “hard" is an exam grade?

An exam grade is relatively hard information. A 79 in an exam means that according to the teacher the student answered 79% of the exam questions correctly and that grade is later used to calculate the final grade for the class. Of course, this does depend a little on the type of exam (e.g. math objective vs. English essay).

Is very soft information worth storing in formal organizational memory? If not, where might you draw the line?

This can be a good classroom discussion. Get students to work down the list from hardest to softest and indicate where they would stop storing information formally.

Interview a businessperson to determine his/her firm's critical success factors (CSFs). Remember, a CSF is something the firm must do right to be successful. Generally a firm has about seven CSFs. For the firm's top three CSFs, identify the information that will measure whether the CSF is being achieved.

Answers will vary, depending on who the students interview and for what companies these people work. Students can ask parents, relatives, or friends.

Interview a manager. Identify the information that person uses to manage the company. Classify this information as short-, medium-, or long-term information. Comment on your findings.

As in question 21, the answers will vary depending on who is interviewed.

What information are you collecting to help determine your career or find a job? What problems are you having collecting this information? Is the information mainly hard or soft?
  • typical job descriptions from public sources or directly from acquaintances who work in the job or know somebody who does
  • predicted need for a person with these qualifications in the near future in the desired region
  • typical pay range
  • necessary education
  • other important aspects of the job, e.g., health hazards, stress level

Much of this information is soft information. Even if it is presented in the form of numbers, it is quite likely that these figures are only the result of more or less accurate predictions. The only relatively hard piece of information is the necessary education level needed to work in this job. For example, to become a teacher in the US, one has to go to a college and obtain at least a bachelor's degree in education.

What type of knowledge is likely to make you most valuable?

As argued in the previous answer, a good combination of all types of knowledge is important. For an organization, cognitive knowledge is the most important. However, as missing cognitive and advanced knowledge can be gained from reading a book or by consulting a database, one could argue that system understanding, self-motivation, and creativity are the types of knowledge that make a person most valuable to a company.

Case Questions

What information would you request to determine the present performance of the organization?

Sales information: How often was each item sold?

Customer information: Who are the most important customers?

Reports on the running costs of the organization

Profit reports

What information would you want to help you assist you in changing The Expeditioner?

Information that would help you change The Expeditioner may include continuous progress reports. Depending on the goals, these reports would reflect how close the organization has come to realizing its goals.



This page is part of the promotional and support material for Data Management (sixth edition) by Richard T. Watson
For questions and comments please contact the author

Date revised: 19-Oct-2016