Information is Useless: Survey
January 15, 2007 Alex Woodie
A new survey released by the consulting firm Accenture confirms what you may have secretly suspected all along: That information is difficult to find at work, and when it is finally corralled, it’s usually wrong.
The dour findings are the result of a survey of more than 1,000 middle managers of large companies in the U.S. and the U.K. The survey was conducted last June, and it was done online, which doesn’t help its credibility much. Neither was there a margin of error attributed to the study, which couldn’t have been scientific, because you can’t control the randomness of the sample over the Web. However, while the techniques for obtaining the information may be suspect, you can’t argue with the results, which we know to be true from firsthand experience.
Moving on, Accenture reports that managers spend up to two hours a day searching for information. The firm also found that more than 50 percent of the information they obtained had no value to them. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they miss information that might be valuable to their jobs almost every day because it exists somewhere else in the company and they just can’t find it. Forty-two percent said they accidentally use the wrong information at least once a week.
The survey also found there’s just way too much information for middle managers to handle. Not surprisingly, IT managers were the least likely to report feeling that the information they receive has value, and they spend the most time trying to find it, Accenture says, with HR managers a close second.
Here’s another shocker: Keeping up with what co-workers are doing is actually harder than finding out what the competition is doing, the survey found. Nearly half said gathering information about what other parts of their company are doing is a big challenge, whereas only 31 percent said that competitor information is hard to get, according to Accenture. What’s more, 40 percent of the managers said other parts of the company are not willing to share information. Apparently, IBM isn’t the only company suffering from the-right-hand-not-knowing-what-the-left-hand-is-doing-itis.
“Information is becoming a burden on knowledge workers and will remain so until companies consolidate and streamline the stores and sources of intelligence,” said a senior executive with Accenture Information Management Services (AIMS). “Doing so will enable them to give back part of the working day to staff, helped by better governance, delivery, integration and the archiving and retention of information.”
So how does anything actually get done in corporate Anglo-America? Apparently, it doesn’t, which is why you should probably just outsource your IT managers to India, where they don’t complain as much, and start saving up for Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 to replace your CSRs. (Hmm, maybe Accenture could set you up?)
All joking aside, the information explosion is quite obviously in full swing, and things are going to get worse before they get better. Accenture singled out e-mail as one of the culprits, along with Blackberries and instant messaging. Since people tend to store most of their information in e-mail programs, it’s very difficult to share with others, and equally hard to share with yourself in the future after it’s been filed away. Normally, you’ve forgotten where you put it, and the Post-it on your monitor with the path to the vital data has been thrown away by the cleaning crew.
Possible solutions hinted at by Accenture could include setting up a collaborative workplace, such as an intranet portal, if only because they’re used at only a handful of companies, and, hell, it’s worth a shot, right? Accenture also reported low use of PDAs among sales and marketing staff.
But are PDAs going to be the savior of information overload? Only if they have Tetris. In color.