The average middle manager is swamped by useless information and spends about a quarter of work time—or two hours a day-- looking for the data they need, according the study by Accenture of 1,009 managers at U.S. and U.K based companies with annual revenue of more than $500 million.
And despite the time spent hunting for the information, once they obtain it, half of the information has no value to their jobs, according to the study. . Things are even worse for tech managers. IT managers admit they waste even more time than other managers—including those in HR, accounting, customer service, and sales and marketing—searching for information. Forty-seven percent of IT managers said they spend 30% of their time trying to pin down information relevant to their jobs.
IT managers say information-overload affects their jobs in a number of ways. Forty-two percent complain they are bombarded by too much information; 44% complain other departments in their companies are not forthcoming with data; 39% say they can't figure out which information is current; 38% say they need to weed out duplicate information; and 21% say they don't understand the value of the information they do receive.
"There's tons of information out there and there are repercussions," says Accenture senior executive Greg Todd.
What's at the heart of the problem? Technology and culture are key factors. Companies tend to have "silos of information," including systems with structured data, unstructured data (such as PDF files and images of scanned paper-based documents) and business intelligence data which is often unable to be distributed, shared or accessed among those who need it or could benefit by using it.
"Business users need to figure out what they need and figure out whether they can find it," he says. However "silos and barriers prevent the sharing, communication and collaboration," he says.
Part of the problem rests with the managers themselves. Eighty-four percent of middle managers collect and store information on their own hard drives or in e-mail accounts, and fail to effectively weed out useless information or share data that might be relevant to others in the organization, he says.
Only 16% of managers say they use a "collaborative workplace" such as a corporate intranet to share or access information.
While there's no one-size-fits-all solution to the information-overload problem, there are some things organizations can do to improve sharing of data and collaboration. That includes organizations developing strong governance systems—procedures, rules, and processes—to identify and share and distribute relevant information in a secure way. Also, technology evolution can help, too.
"SOA will be at the heart of this," says Todd. As more companies adopt service-oriented architecture based environments and standards, "managing information stores and getting it to the right individuals" will improve.
At Argo Turboserve Corp., a parts distributor for the nuclear and aerospace industries, there's a project underway to make it easier for managers to retrieve key information that they need from documents, such as vendor contracts, says CIO Art Johnston.
"The aim of our document managment program is help managers find what they're looking for quicker and easier," says Johnston. New Web search and archiving capabilities will help managers locate digitized images of documents via search words, he says.
The project will also help make document managment more cost-effective, he says. Digitized documents will be stored on DVD carousels rather than on hard drives. "The cost of keeping all of this on hard drives is enormous," he says. Argo Turboserve will use Microsoft Sharepoint "to help share documents" as part of the new initiative, he says.
Editor's note: Additional material was added to the bottom of this story on Jan. 4.