Who moved the data? Transforming data into information

Useful data is everywhere these days: in the accounting office, sales department, lab, classroom, stock market, medical records office. In fact, it would be hard to find a department or business that does not have its cup running over with data.

Of course, the key to transforming data into information lies in the ways that the data is used. Collecting it and letting it lie around might produce a sensation of busy-ness, but will not provide useful process information. Examining data for trends, alerts, or dramatic changes offers an opportunity for heading off disaster—but only if it is readily accessible and timely, and if it is really used.

Charting offers the most reliable way to interpret and analyze data in order to derive information from it. But one barrier to charting may be the fact that the software or database where the data is stored is not capable of creating charts, so that data must be moved to a quality charting program.

In this day and age, of course, importing data is a commonplace process. One routinely copies and pastes from word processing documents or spreadsheets, for example, in order to create a PowerPoint presentation or a new document. But importing data—especially in large amounts—to a quality charting software that can create useful, sophisticated charts may involve several steps that must be remembered each time the import is undertaken.

Unfortunately the import option is not only a cumbersome process, but it can create some potential limitations and risks in rendering the data truly useful. Among these are:

  • Obsolete data: Since the minute a copy of original data is exported, the original may change or grow, so the copy no longer reflects the current situation. The dilemma lies in the fact that the original program cannot create the needed charts easily, and the program into which data is imported relies only on the original data set, not updated records.
  • Repetitive work: Even automated work must be repeated for each new assessment. And of course every step in a process offers an opportunity for something to go wrong.
  • Lack of flexibility: After the export-import process has been completed and you finally find yourself with a terrific chart, someone may want to look at the data in a different way—monthly, for example, rather than weekly data—and you must begin the process again.

PQ Systems has focused on ways to make data useful without moving it around in the way described. Since data is often stored in robust spreadsheet programs or databases, PQ’s development team focused on ways to access this data, assure that it is up to date, and create flexibility in using it in a variety of formats.

Originally published in the December 2007 edition of Quality eLine, our free monthly newletter.

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