Information Management Trends

Recently, while doing some research, I found in my documents a reference to an old Gartner report on knowledge workers productivity and its relationship to search. This report was from 2002 and stated that knowledge workers spent between 30 to 40% of their time searching for information, and they were less than 50% successful in their efforts. According to Kathy Harris and Regina Casonato – employees got 50 to 70% of information from other people rather than from their search results.

This referred to both electronic and physical documents. Physical documents are usually better organized, electronic often become quickly an information dump. Since then, there were new tools adopted and ratio of electronic to paper documents increased. With wide adoption of tools like SharePoint, instant messages, wireless phone texting, Tweeter and so on, there was a dramatic increase in amount of information that is being created and transmitted. Are we better now with the information management that then? I don’t think so. Although the search capabilities increased, and we use more powerful processors, full content search is still not the answer. Are we capturing more contextual information to help with targeted search? The answer is mostly – no – after seeing multiple implementations of SharePoint. Implementation of SharePoint sites became often too easy, without proper thought put into development of information architecture and governance. Very soon such installations turn into an information junkyard.

So what was the cost of lost productivity then in 2002? Assuming that average fully loaded salary of knowledge worker was about $ 80,000 per year, 30% will come to about $ 24,000 – per worker. These costs are mind blowing, especially if we take into account the success rate of less than 50%. So this raises a question – could be used in ECM business cases to support financial benefits, without accountants rejecting them as purely soft benefits? I touched on this in my previous blog post, and Jason White suggested interesting concept of using Business Intelligence tools to identify these benefits. But how to do it before we have ECM tools in place?

This relates to today’s report from Gartner on top 10 tech trends for 2012. Here are few interesting highlights relevant to information management:

–          Average teenager sends over 4,762 text messages per month – I am sure that busy executives with their Blackberries send less than this but it still shows how quickly volume of information is increasing

–          Context aware computing, using information about end user’s or object’s environment to improve quality of interaction – metadata and information architecture come to mind immediately, and its importance will be constantly growing.

–          Internet of everything with pervasive computing linking information generating input points like cameras, sensors, microphones, image recognition and so on. This is not only about the information volume but also about the privacy.

–          Next generation analytics – improvement in processing power will shift the analytics from data centers to end user platforms, including mobile devices. It will empower the end users to do lot of analysis themselves.

So what this all shows? It seems that the problems from 10 years ago were still not resolved, and information management is still trying to catch-up with technology. The focus of information management will have to shift towards proactive development of agile taxonomies, automatic tools to capture and normalize metadata, facilitating targeted search, as well as making analytics tools simpler for end users. This hopefully will turn into increased knowledge worker’s productivity.

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