The Business of Information

…the technologies are only the tools and methods I must be familiar with in order to stay current with the business practice of information creation, management, and presentation.

During a discussion about technology evolution in American business, a subscriber on GaryNorth.com solicited my opinion regarding getting into online authoring using WordPress. Although I regard WordPress as a state-of-the-art content management system that most everyone should be familiar, I put the issue into a broader context:

“I have heard, Mr. Hobbes, that you do a lot of online work and that you do a lot with WordPress. This is probably where I should be going. Industrial controls are becoming more “intelligent” and offshoring is becoming a problem for us.” (Sic)

From https://www.garynorth.com/members/forum/openthread.cfm?forum=21&ThreadID=281000#281279  (Website subscription required.)

WordPress What For?

Sixty years ago, we were all glued to the TV for one purpose: to obtain information. Prior to that, my parents’ generation was glued to the radio.

But although information was crucial at those times, as it always has been, in general information access was not ubiquitous, and information itself was not yet a universal key asset. Rather, it was a “specialty” asset only strategically used by a few. (Think: ticker-tapes.)

We are now in the third decade of the Twentieth Century, and about five decades into the Information Age, where the universal key asset is information, use of which as a strategic asset has expanded exponentially, as access has become ubiquitous, and creation has automated.

The entire world turns in a second based on new information, accurate or not. (Think: algorithms.) No other asset class can make this claim. The fortunes that are now made, are made presenting information as a strategic asset: Musk, Bezos, Turner, North, all presented information as a strategic asset to prosper; and prosper they did.

WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Membergate, and the other hundreds of content management systems are all Information Age platforms designed to manage the presentation of information as that universal key asset; and from this perspective are only tools to affect the asset’s presentation, and thereby “monetize.”

Behind the Curtain

My focus on WordPress and ancillary and supporting technologies only exists in order that I may stay current with the tools that “present” that universal key asset by contemporary means on the Internet. But behind the scenes, I also employ other tools and applications to create, manage, and utilize information in other forms, and for purposes other than, or only supporting, presenting with WordPress.

As a result, my desktop has a variety of audio, video, graphic, development (IDE), word processing, data analysis, database, and supporting and ancillary tools, of which I maintain familiarity. I “dabble” as a vehicle to maintain the capability to produce information products in a variety of forms as needed.

I also work to stay familiar with other information exchange technologies, such as relational and non-relational database access and geo-spatial data exchange technologies, such as SQL, JSON/BSON, KML, et cetera.

Note that for some tools and applications, I maintain power user capability; others mere familiarity. (I’ve been using Excel and Word since their inception; hence, I’m a power user.) The intent is to have the flexibility to implement information solutions quickly as needed. But because needs evolve quickly based on new technologies, my capability has to be constantly updated/upgraded. In other words, I work to stay familiar.

The Business of Information

As fun as it is for this old technician to dabble in tech tools, dabbling is very much a means to an end. If I’m to stay current with information creation, management, and presentation, I’ve got to be familiar with current technologies. This means that I DO NOT spend a lot of time digging into the inner workings of the technologies. I did that 50 years ago when that was my professional work and I was exceedingly good at it. Not only did I install and maintain computer hardware to the component level (i.e., tubes, transistors, integrated circuits, et cetera), I developed software capability starting with machine language and then all the major programming languages (i.e., COBOL, FORTRAN, Assembler, et cetera).

But now the environment has changed, as described in my reply to the subscriber regarding XML, and component-level capability is now obsolete. Indeed technology specialization itself is at risk, as the subscriber recognized in his query above.

As I stated in another post: “Data interchange is a business problem” (which it is), the creation, management, and presentation of the information asset (i.e., processed data) is also a business problem—the primary business problem in the Information Age. The folks that can adroitly select and leverage appropriate technologies as a means to the end of creating, managing, and presenting information will have the competitive edge.

Building this capability is a business problem [and solution] in itself; it is not a technical proficiency issue.

Value of Information

In another thread, I suggested that a report include a “dashboard” for review by the management team. Note that such a dashboard provides no new data. But it does present a different view of the data; that is, it provides new information about the same data. (“Information” is processed data; process the same data differently, and new information is obtained.)

Just to make this point: when I log on to GaryNorth.com and read the main articles, I always go directly to the bottom of the article to read the “Conclusion” first, as it generally summarizes our host’s point, often adding new information, and thereby saving me time. When there is no “Conclusion,” that added value is not present and I postpone reading the article, just as I would not bother reading a business report that fails to include an Executive Summary up front. Note that conclusions add new information by design, as do summaries of raw data.

It is this new information that provides added value, well beyond the value of the data itself. This is why managers and others want summaries and conclusions. It is the ability to manipulate and present data in many forms that results in different information presentation, resulting in business solutions that add value.

So to restate the point: the technologies are only the tools and methods I must be familiar with in order to stay current with the business practice of information creation, management, and presentation. I am no longer the excellent technician I was, nor do I want to be. Now, the focus of building and maintaining my capability, is adding value to the creation, management, and presentation of information.

I consider this a business problem, requiring business solutions.