Information Needs to be More Than Intelligent

By Susan Glover, President, Susan Glover & Associates, LLC on Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

When it comes to technology, advisors seem to thrive on the latest trend and buzzwords. In 2013, vendors loved to talk about their products delivering integration and ROI. This year, vendors will be talking about Big Data and Intelligent Information.
It used to be acceptable when IT just meant Information Technology
Now, thanks to custodians and vendors, information and technology needs to be “intelligent” as in intelligent information, business intelligence, intelligent technology and intelligent integration.  Regardless of which technology category you look at, all claim “intelligent” something.  How did we go from having information needs to needing intelligent information?
What is intelligent information?
Intelligent information is the end result of processing big data (large amounts of data stored in databases). It is usually presented in an aggregated manner and can be displayed in several formats (e.g. reports, dashboards). The level of analytics provided depends on the application and vendor.  The data gathered and processed can be integrated from a number of sources or can be processed from a single source like your CRM.
How intelligent is the information and other questions you may have:
How great is this concept? It can be if the information is useful to you. There are three levels of information in your decision-making process – meaningless, nice-to-know, and useful. These levels are defined by you. What is meaningless to one person may be very useful to another.
How intelligent is the information? It’s as intelligent as the data is accurate, the assumptions are valid, and the calculations are correct. Remember GIGO? It stands for “Garbage In-Garbage Out” and is an important concept of intelligent information.  If any of the inputs are incorrect, the level of intelligence is affected.
What can I do with all of this information? Solve problems and make better business decisions for your firm. Be careful when staring at all of the graphs, charts, tables and data. The vast amount of information can create a “WOW” response. It can also cause confusion, or misuse of the information, if not properly understood.
Intelligent information or useful information?
Just because vendors claim that the software or application provides intelligent information doesn’t mean it will provide you with the right information to support your business. Before investing in intelligent technology, review the following to determine if the information or application is right for your firm:

  • The various processes and staffing levels of your firm that is supported by the data, information or application

  • Accessibility to the data and calculations for ad-hoc analysis

  • Analytic capabilities or data export features to Excel for further analysis

  • Ability to define the scope, or data set, to analyze a problem

  • Your ability to filter through the information to focus on those which will help in your decision-making process

Big and intelligent doesn’t have to mean complicated – lessons from the KISS method
Keeping your analytic needs simple is a great way to understand the results and ensure the right solution for your firm. It is easy for advisors to get caught up with using many rules, variables and calculations in the analytics. The resulting information may not be intelligent, useful, or even accurate due to an error in the assumptions or rules that contradict one another. While big data and intelligent technology are available and capable of delivering information to build a better business model and provide exceptional client service, they can also deliver the wrong solution to your problem. 
While excitement exists over the words Big and Intelligent, advisors will achieve better results if the same level of excitement is also given to Useful, GIGO, and KISS.
Sue Glover is President of Susan Glover & Associates, a consulting firm that ensures advisory firms have the information they need to make the best decisions for their clients and their own firm. With over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, she assists advisors in evaluating, selecting implementing, and using technology. Visit her website at You can email her at
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