Data vs. Information

So obviously at Holistic, we are obsessed with data! We love data! One of the things that we have really become conscious of is exactly how much data companies have.

When we first started the company, I bought a book on data science and on the first page, I read something that was really interesting. The author talked about the various types of information that a company might have and mentioned the concept of unorganized data or non-uniform data. Information that existed in emails, communications, and calendars, in people's experiences and in their brains. This is real stuff which is valuable and useless all at once -- valuable because of the potential associated with this type of information; useless because it was not organized and not useful in its current format.

We quickly realized that this is a tremendous opportunity for Holistic, to mine some of this type of information and turn it into data. Effectively, what we are doing is we are creating new sources of data; proprietary data, information that has been turned into a usable, sortable format.

Here are a couple of examples:

You probably know when your last performance review was, roughly speaking. You might remember if it was in the morning or if it was in the afternoon, if it was on Monday, but off the top of your head, you don’t remember the exact date. You don’t remember if the meeting got moved to a different location or a different time. You can’t recall if it was late and if so, how late it was. You might not even remember much many details about it like it was taken seriously or not. You have a lot of this information, in your email, in your calendar, in your head, in your notes. What we would do in this scenario is to take this information and bring it together in a data set.

This is super valuable. Once you have a working data set, you can use it -- you can collide it against other sources of data, for example, demographic data, to get really interesting analysis as to the fairness and equity with which the team is pursuing different tasks. This is a really interesting lens into the overall equity of the organization that is simply not available the way that the date is right now.

The second example is other policies. You have all kinds of policies and procedures and handbooks in place, almost for sure. Someone, somewhere knows that it takes six months before you can get into the 401(k), or that the company match on the healthcare plan to 75%. The issues are threefold: first, this information is decentralized, so it’s hard to access. Second, we already know that very few people actually do have all of this essential information, so even though the company has figured that out, it’s not accessible to employees. Lastly, it’s almost impossible to measure this in any meaningful fashion, because it’s all over the place. We can solve for problems like this in one fell swoop by creating a data set of this information that we can use to drive processes.

The result in both cases is a more efficient, or inclusive organization. We are getting people involved in the processes and we are standardizing information into data so that it is useful and accessible to everybody after being analyzed by the company to create improvement. Both of these are tremendous acts of inclusion and will have a pretty profound impact on the overall company.

The company has a tremendous amount of information at its disposal. Tremendous. We are just now scratching the surface of what we believe the potential is in terms of centralizing and organizing this information into data. We believe that this will be an ongoing effort by Holistic and a major contribution to the companies that we’re working with. What information do you have that you want to process? What information exists in your organization that might be valuable if you looked at in another form? How might your future be different if you access all the information you are gathering and building and shape it into something you can use?

Information is everything. Taking maximum advantage of the information you have, or can get, is fundamental for any company, now and in the future.

Tom Alexander