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Who is accessing what information in the enterprise

While recent research from digital business researchers IDG shows that there is widespread understanding of the importance and capital value of enterprise data, it also shows that there is a much more limited understanding of the information delivery needs of all enterprise workers, and in particular the information needs of customer-facing employees.

Data and Customer-Facing Workers

The issue here is not one of enterprise technologies, even if ultimately enterprise technologies are largely responsible for delivering information to where it is needed. The issue is really about corporate cultures and who makes decisions about information delivery.

Clearly, the last word on all these issues is going to be made at the C-Suite level, but just as there is no point in sending a sales team out on the road armed with dysfunctional technologies, there is also no point in sending them out without meeting their data needs.

Indeed, the report shows that in this respect many enterprises need to revisit their information management strategy as it relates to their front-line workers.

The State of Information Management

The State of Information Capital report, conducted in partnership with Information Builders, is the result of a survey carried out across the US and the most developed European economies during the month of May this year. It is based on 401 responses to an online survey returned by workers in the following categories:

  • 55% IT workers,
  • 35% knowledge workers (non-IT)
  • 10% operational workers (non-IT)

The breakdown here is important in that they were spilt nearly evenly between IT workers and non-IT workers, which was split again into knowledge and operational workers. The report also attempts to understand information use beyond executives and those designing enterprise strategies.

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Information Management Tools Access

Overall, it shows that while eight out of 10 employees have direct contact with business intelligence or analytics tools, the level of access to those tools and the way they are used depends largely on the individual’s role in the organization.

Surprisingly, workers that are dealing directly with enterprise clients have the lowest level of direct involvement with business intelligence and analytics applications. Overall, while seven out of 10 said that they have contact with these technologies, half say that their role is limited to consuming or reviewing reports that other people prepare.

Data Consumption

However, this phenomena is not limited to front-line workers. The research also showed that IT decision makers are just as likely to be consumers of reports and reviews prepared by others as they are to prepare and investigate data for trends and business insights. Percentage-wise the figures for IT workers break-down as follows:

  • Consume, review data prepared by others (46%)
  • Investigate data trends (46%)
  • Use enterprise tools to build dashboards/queries (45%)
  • Data mining and statistical analysis (41%)
  • Building reporting applications for others (40%)

IT department aside, overall 61% report spending time consuming/reviewing reports prepared by others with 51% investigating data for trends and business insights.

Information Management Competitive Advantages

If access and use of information management applications tends to be skewed towards IT workers, generally speaking, respondents said that information management offers their enterprise a competitive advantage.

Information is now generally considered to be a valuable resource that is used not just for front-line operations, but also as a means to align day to day operations with strategic enterprise goals.

This was a sentiment that was echoed across the entire survey regardless of geography or position in the company. In fact, 75% of respondents answered positively to the question as to whether information was used for strategic alignment and also showed that this is achieved by giving workers access to all the information they need on a regular basis.

Asked how the information was used competitively, 69% said their enterprise was using information to help customers make better decisions, but also uses analytics to create better alignment with customer needs.

Information as Capital

All this appears to imply that the value proposition for treating information as capital is well understood and widely accepted across the enterprise, but a wider look at the findings show that there is limited understanding of the information delivery needs of all stakeholders in the enterprise. In terms of those needs, the following figures are striking.

While a substantial number of executives are asked about their needs, the needs of front-line employees are less often considered:

  • Feedback from executive management (82%)
  • Mid-level management (83%)
  • Knowledge workers (70%)
  • Operational/front-line employees (55%)
  • Customers (51%)
  • External partners (41%)
  • Suppliers (34%).

In the real world this is not really that surprising, after all if the boss wants something he, or she, tends to get it.

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The result is that while top tier employees -- executives, mid-level management and knowledge workers -- tend to have their information delivery needs met, less than 40% of front-line employees can say the same.

Even more surprising in the current economic environment is that customers and the financial contribution they make to the survival of the enterprise are only written into 50% of enterprises’ information paradigm.

The research also tried to identify what was getting in the way of developing a broader information strategy. There was an interesting list of perceived problems including:

  • Concerns about data quality and reliability (39%)
  • Internal polices or corporate culture (39%)
  • Technology integration challenges (38%)
  • Concerns over the cost of integration technologies.

Despite these concerns, organizations see the value in better information sharing.

Sharing Information Benefits

All that taken into account, there is a generally held view that sharing actionable information internally and externally is a good thing.

In doing so, enterprise managers believe they are facilitating better decision making and in doing so improve employee productivity and performance (58%).

Currently, the survey found, organizations are investing in a variety of tools to support their information management strategies with Excel and dashboards present in 48% of organizations, along with function specific solutions and statistical or data mining tools currently present in more than 40% of organizations.

While the research does show a gap in the way different workers are being given different kinds of access to information with front-line workers in many instances not being provided with all the tools they need, it does show, on a positive note, that this hasn’t gone unnoticed.