Overview with tools, software, best practices and alternatives
What is Information Gathering?
Information gathering helps the individual and the organization to undertake complicated tasks that would otherwise be extremely hard to accomplish if not outrightly impossible without the benefit of gathered information. As defined in the dictionary, information gathering is the act of collecting information from various sources through various means.
In the literal sense, information gathering is a basic human skill necessary for undertaking basic human activities such as eating, sleeping, working etc. For in order to eat, one must know if the food is edible or not; and in order to sleep, one must know if the sleeping place is comfortable or not.
As applied in the fields of business and other specialized organizations (scientific, military, academic) however, information gathering is an advanced skill which requires the training and education of personnel in the procedures and methods of gathering information from sources that are of higher level than ordinary sources. In the case of interviewing personalities for example, a researcher usually gets to interview authorities and proper officials, and thus, he must know the proper ways to address distinguished personalities of the community and the society in general.
In general practice, information gathering is the collection of data for dealing with the individual’s or the organization’s current situation. More data means more and better ways of dealing with the current situation. More data broadens the minds of those who will use the data to solve current organizational problems. New ideas come more easily if there are lots of facts to be used as bases.
There are two main types of sources in the field of information gathering, namely:
- Existing sources – existing sources are those sources of information that can be found in the printed, in video, in audio and other materials that are available to the public or upon request to proper bureaucracy.
- Natural sources – natural sources are first hand sources such as those who have tried products, services and methods, and expressing their experience and opinions to the researcher.
Who undertakes information gathering and why
Information gathering is an assignment of the research specialist within the organization’s intelligence department. They are the personnel properly trained and equipped to carry out the research tasks in the most efficient manner. The proper handling of data requires methods and procedures unique to the field of information gathering. Research personnel do this task unequivocally thru skills like data sifting, intelligent questioning, and other research skills. Other company personnel can also do their own information gathering on the personal level to improve their job performances and as a self-help tool. Researchers undertake information gathering in order to:
- Broaden the scope of knowledge of the organization
- For the development of particular skills
- To reduce the apprehension caused by the unknown
- For a higher level of understanding of special subjects
- And obviously, for solving problems
Additionally, on the non-professional aspect of the research undertaking, information can also give inspiration and entertainment.
How to undertake information gathering
In order to implement a good information gathering design, a step-by-step approach is advisable for any researcher to follow:
- Analyzing the problem – The researcher needs to identify the purpose and the process of the research he is doing. For whom is he doing it and why? These questions and more needs to be answered right at the start of the research.
- Identifying the sections of the information gathering – Before going through with the process of information gathering, a sectioning of the general outline of the task can be helpful. Sections such as those classifying the recipients of the data, the detailing of the specific questions that needs to be answered, and also the setting of the knowledge levels of the team members involved facilitates an easier to follow research program.
- After the outline of the research task, the researcher may then set the actual plan of activities needed to carry out the information gathering tasks. Questions such as: Where to go to for the research? What materials need to be invested in? What skills are needed to be implemented? And the details of the research materials like the availability, languages, location and accessibility needs some suasion.
- The gathering methods and tools – The tools that are involved in information gathering such as data storage devices and publications have their own set of required skills that the researcher must readily possess or is capable of having. Languages contained in publications could pose a problem and data storage devices could have proprietary names. And names, as we all know in the computer industry means lots of adjustments.
- Begin the gathering – During the gathering of the data, the researcher encounters various amounts of information that may or may not be relevant to the present subject of the research. He must sift through all of these carefully.
- Review and record the data obtained – a recording that includes everything from the start to the end of the gathering process must be set in writing to provide all the information that the organization needs.
Advantages and some weaknesses of information gathering
Information gathering, per se, delivers a great deal of advantage to the organization undertaking it. Due to its enlightening nature for example, the researcher and his organization catches a better glimpse of other people’s situations. They are able to empathize with other people if they knew better. Better alternatives in problem solving are also in the offing upon learning of mistakes already committed by other parties.
On the down side, with the proliferation of massive amounts of data in the Internet, any researcher who took up gathering of information in the Internet can suffer from information overload. There’s just no absolute lead with information gathering in the Internet and pursued leads might lead to the doldrums in information gathering.
Best ways of information gathering
An organization reduces the stress on itself if it has an efficient means of information gathering. And for that efficiency to take place, some key points in the practice of information gathering needs to be stressed:
- Staff needs to be organized and distributed to take on specific assignments.
- They also must be trained in the different approaches to inquiring.
- Everyone involved must be constantly updated in the ongoing research project
- With interviews, the information gathering staff should have good questioning skills
- Creativity, inventiveness and adaptability are key qualities that bring progress to the gathering of information.
Teamreporter facilitates information gathering
Teamreporter is a web based email application that updates everyone on the team especially remote working teams about project status and the progress the team is making on it. Each member of the remote working team submits a report on his expertise via email that Teamreporter automatically sends to each member. Members can gather information about the whole project and the team with Teamreporter. All these Teamreporter undertakes by means of the following procedures:
- Creating questions that the team members will answer.
- Tailoring the questions to be asked to fit project needs
- Scheduling the sending out of email queries.
- Team members replying with their status reports.
- Upon receiving individual team member reports, scheduling of overall status updates to every team member.
- Adopting preset business scenarios.
- Prompting team members who forget their reports.
- Arranging an archive of team status reports
Teamreporter has the following advantages:
- Ready in 5 minutes
- Free startup
- Accessible even to novice users and managers
- No IT software or hardware requirements
- Only email login required for Team members
Teamreporter provides an efficient means of information gathering with its automatic and custom functions that project managers can easily set up.
Alternative ways of information gathering
Besides the standard forms of information gathering such as Internet researches, interviews of personalities and authorities and other methods of information gathering, another method not usually employed by researchers is the giving of long forms to subjects that are filled up by them. This method is akin to surveys that are released by commercial companies who study market trends.
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