Two in three workers lack the information they need

Two thirds of employees say they do not have access to the information they need to do their jobs, a survey of 8,300 workers has found. 

Meanwhile, fewer than half believe the information contained within corporate data sources is "in a usable format", the global survey by professional advisory CEB found. 

And only a quarter said that the reports and dashboards that their employers provide are valuable. 

CEB argues that the traditional approach to information management, which focuses on structured data contained within corporate-owned systems, is failing to serve the needs of employees. 

It found that this kind of data is only used by 50% of employees, while 80% use information from other external or 'unstructured' sources. 

There is therefore an opportunity for IT departments to assist workers by helping them access data from these sources, which CEB refers to as 'big data'.  

However, in doing so they face four key challenges. First, they struggle to spot the best business opportunities for big data. "Organisations struggle to identify the most valuable use cases for investments in big data," CEB wrote in its Business Outcomes from Big Data report.

Secondly, the rapid growth of information sources and user requirements makes it difficult to anticipate cross-functional information needs. 

Making data usable is another challenge. "The growth of new information sources and data types makes accessing data harder, not easier, and creates difficulties for presenting data in a way that improves decision making," CEB wrote.  

And lastly, "organisations struggle to identify and build the skills and competencies IT needs to exploit big data". 

This challenges are not insurmountable, though, and CEB presents some examples of organisations that have addressed them. 

For example, the IT team at the City of Minneapolis uses its cross-functional vantage point to identify which information serves which business outcomes, and prioritises information integration projects accordingly. 

Drug maker GlaxoSmithKlein improves the usability and accessibility of data with a visual analytics system that reveals "the interrelationships between data elements and provide[s] full transparency into information sources, flows and quality".

Most organisations, though, are not making use of the information that is available to them. CEB managing director Andrew Horne compares this to the untapped potential of the human brain. 

"The brain is hugely flexible, contains vast and diverse amounts of information, and can be used for many purposes, but most people tend to use all of this for a relatively small number of purposes. We put blinkers on, or get stuck in their our ways," Horne says.

"The same is true for corporate data. Companies many do a lot of data crunching but they rely on sets of pre-canned reports or cubes that are rarely changed, and so don’t exploit the full range of opportunities that big data offers them."

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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