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Data dyspepsia blights the workforce

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The quantity of information flowing into our businesses on a daily basis has reached an officially indigestible level. Research from Gartner has found that 90% of companies believe they get too much information pumped through to them on a regular basis--and they're beginning to feel like it's affecting their productivity.

The problem, of course, is the proliferation of the communication network. We have the Internet, email, Instant messaging, the telephone, fax and a multitude of portable communications devices all designed to keep us informed. But for businesses this communication is getting too much to be useful--and it promises to cost us a fortune.

Gartner estimate that businesses across the globe will spend as much as $30 billion on information management systems this year alone in the hope of pulling us through this quagmire of data. But still it may not be enough to counter the effects of the information overload.

One of the biggest challenges facing an organisation today is filtering the good from the bad information. It's the classic signal/noise equation. We all like to get the right signals--and all hate the noise. But for each and every employee these are highly debatable categories. Gartner found, quite surprisingly, that the most useful information employees receive comes from personal networks, contact with friends and colleagues, and emails--rather than the finely tuned information source that is supposed to be the Intranet. But how do you manage that?

Computers today simply aren't developed with any insight into our needs and as such are, perhaps, the prime facilitators of this overload. But what can you do to stop it? The perennial interruptions, the useless information, it's virtually impossible to tackle. On the one hand, unnecessary interruption, caused by information, can be scheduled through workflow tools. But that only goes a very small part of the way to tackling the problem. Gartner advises encouraging more social interaction--in cafeterias and lounges--but still that won't stem the flood from outside the business.

The other option is some kind of sophisticated knowledge management solution--but no one has even figured out what this is yet so don't expect that one to solve your woes.

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