Glenn Morill, Real Discovery

Member Article

Data and Information: the lifeblood of an organisation

Glenn Morill of Real Discovery presents the first in his series of three articles charting the history, current situation and future of data and information… the lifeblood of any organisation.

The history of data and information

For centuries records have been kept that have recorded the trading of organisations. In the second half of the last century following the second world war there was rapid development which led to data being been captured and stored in computers. However the early computers
were monsters taking up masses of floor space. ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was one of the first totally electronic, valve driven, digital, program-controlled computers and was unveiled in 1946. It weighed 30 tonnes and contained 18,000 electronic valves, consuming around 160 kW of electrical power. It could do 50,000 basic calculations a second. It was used for calculating ballistic trajectories and testing theories behind the hydrogen bomb.

It is possible to see all the developments in computing in a simple timeline via wikipedia. In two ways this demonstrates the vast change that has occurred in such a short time in history; in looking at the timeline and the rapid developments in a few decades and also due to the fact that such information is now at our fingertips.

During the 60’s and 70’s companies started to capture data using mainframe computers with the view of increasing productivity. As an example, a local company Northern Rock (as it was then) had an ICL mainframe in a big room that initially had 8k of memory and data was input via punched cards, paper tape and UDT’s (universal document transporter, a big sheet of paper for each transaction which was marked to record the date, account number, amount, balance etc). So batch processing was the way in which data was processed and information provided.

The 80’s saw the introduction of the personal computer so now people could take data from the mainframe computer and manipulate it on their PC. Word processing and spreadsheets changed the way in which businesses operated.

The 90’s and the start of globalization heralded the large Enterprise Resource Planning packages such as SAP. These packages typically provided real time update capability and corporate reporting facilities.

In that decade the Internet exploded onto the scene with the capability to reach people throughout the world and web browsers providing a rich graphical experience. There was a scramble to create the killer app mainly by new start-ups and the huge frenzy peaked in March 2000 when the dot com bubble burst. However the Internet matured through the noughties
and mobile technology came of age too with the iPhone, Blackberry and others providing rich information.

During the 90’s and into the noughties the data warehouse became popular; this was a copy of information from the source transactional systems and was used by many, primarily large, organisations to provide information to business users. The process to create and manage a data warehouse was costly, people intensive and lengthy. Smaller companies would tend to use
report writing solutions to access data held within their computer systems.

The pace of change speeded up through the decades and information became increasingly more important as the current wave of globalisation took hold.

The second article will chart the current situation and how businesses are using information for competitive advantage.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Glenn Morrill .

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