Information overload drags executives down: Survey

Most say staff could share information more effectively
||Last Updated: 05/16/2011

Almost one-half of Canadian executives say the amount of information they have overwhelms them, according to a survey released by SAS, a business analytics software and services company.

Overall, 45 per cent of executives said they are overwhelmed by information, compared to 47 per cent last year. However, executives from Ontario and British Columbia are less likely to say they suffer from information overload — in 2010, 52 per cent of Ontario and B.C.-based executives said they faced information overload, versus 38 per cent and 44 per cent (respectively) this year.

While most provinces and business sectors showed little change, respondents in the academic and education sectors were more likely to say things have become worse with information overload — 42 per cent in 2010 versus 61 per cent in 2011, found SAS.

"Organizations often need to make significant procedural changes to effectively address information overload," said Kathryn Brohman, a professor of management information systems at Queen's University’s School of Business in Kingston, Ont. "For organizations to be successful combating information overload, they need both the right technology and the right procedures."

Eighty per cent of the 1,000 executives polled said they'd make better informed business decisions if they had the right tools in place to analyze information more effectively, yet 24 per cent said they do not have the right information to make effective business decisions about business performance.

When asked if their staff could share information more effectively, 82 per cent of executives agreed, found the survey.

"Many business analytics initiatives are based on the concept of wanting and needing access to information while ignoring the elephant in the room — the fact we just aren't that effective at sharing information," said Elie Elia, a professor in the department of management and technology at the Université du Québec à Montréal. "While access to accurate and up-to-date information is critical to business success, there is a substantial amount of untapped business value that can be gained by sharing information more effectively."

For the second year running, customer satisfaction and retention was by far the most important business issue for Canadian executives (34 per cent in 2011, 37 per cent in 2010), found the survey. Tied for second (in both 2010 and 2011) at 13 per cent was controlling operational costs and profitability. Dealing with government regulations was fourth, though 2011 showed a slight rise to 12 per cent, up from nine per cent in 2010.

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