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What’s the Difference Between Information Management and Data Management?

By Kelle O'Neal

Updated: June 2022

In the four years since this article was first published, it’s remained one of our most popular on the blog. Since then, our industry’s evolved in many ways — some expected, some unexpected. Even with the growth and change, it’s still good to remember the basics. Depending on how far along you are in your data/information journey, consider our “what’s the difference” article as a starting point or a refresher. – Kelle

In our buzzword-heavy industry, there can be confusion about the meaning of words and phrases. Take data management and information management, for example. Is there a difference between the two? After all, data is information — right? Well, yes and no.

What Is Data?

Tech Target defines data as “information that has been translated into a form that is efficient for movement or processing. Relative to today’s computers and transmission media, data is information converted into binary digital form. It is acceptable for data to be used as a singular subject or a plural subject. Raw data is a term used to describe data in its most basic digital format.”

Data in its most basic, standalone digital format does not provide information.

What Is Information?

Tech Target defines information as “stimuli that has meaning in some context for its receiver. When information is entered into and stored in a computer, it is generally referred to as data. After processing — such as formatting and printing — output data can again be perceived as information. When information is compiled or used to better understand something or to do something, it becomes knowledge.”

Data in its most basic, standalone digital format does not provide information. But when it’s combined with other data or is manipulated in some way, that’s when the organization derives value from the information — which then leads to knowledge.

When information is compiled or used to better understand something or to do something, it becomes knowledge.

Information Management vs. Data Management

Information management is an organizational program that manages the people, processes and technology that provide control over the structure, processing, delivery and usage of information required for management and business intelligence purposes.

Information, as we know it today, includes both electronic and physical information. The organizational structure must be capable of managing this information throughout its life cycle — regardless of source or format (data, paper documents, electronic documents, audio, video, etc.) for delivery through multiple channels that may include mobile phones and online.

Data management is a subset of information management. It comprises all disciplines related to managing data as a valuable, organizational resource. Specifically, it’s the process of creating, obtaining, transforming, sharing, protecting, documenting and preserving data.

The official definition provided by DAMA International’s Data Management Book of Knowledge (DMBoK) is: “Data management is the development, execution and supervision of plans, policies, programs and practices that control, protect and enhance the value of data and information assets throughout their life cycles.”

Data management includes everything from file-naming conventions to policies and practices on creating metadata and documentation for the long term. Data management ensures data that underlies an organization is available, accurate, complete and secure. Additionally, it addresses the development and execution of architectures, policies, practices and procedures that manage the full data life cycle.

Data management is a subset of information management.

Here are some key differences to keep in mind:

Information ManagementData Management
An organizational program that manages the people, processes and technology that provide control over the structure, processing, delivery and usage of informationEnsures data that underlies an organization is available, accurate, complete and secure.
Includes both electronic and physical informationComprises all disciplines related to managing data as a valuable, organizational resource
Has many formats including data, paper documents, electronic documents, audio, video, etc.Can take many different forms, including numbers, letters, sets of characters, images, etc.

Why Definitions Matter

Over the years, some of our First San Francisco Partners clients have asked us about these concepts. They want to be sure they understand key strategies and terminology and the value these bring to their organization. (Admittedly, the two terms are easy to confuse and, many in our industry tend to use them interchangeably.)

By understanding the nuances between information management and data management, we can identify gaps in an organization’s approaches and create a foundation that drives high-quality data and, from this, more informed decision-making.

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