UK: 67% Of Companies Suffer From Information Overload, Claims KPMG Consulting

Last Updated: 15 March 2000

Research shows new technology falling at the human hurdle

Over two-thirds of companies are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information held within their systems, according to a new KPMG Consulting report. Research published today shows that companies risk wasting their investment in technology implemented to manage information, because they are failing to tackle the 'human hurdle' - up to two-thirds of respondents had problems with information overload, employees not having time to share knowledge and 'reinventing the wheel'. In addition, fewer than a third of respondents had implemented measures to incentivise and reward knowledge sharing.

David Parlby, partner at KPMG Consulting, commented: "This research demonstrates that many companies have made significant in-roads in implementing knowledge management (KM), particularly KM technologies. Many of the problems that hampered KM projects in the past seem to have been largely overcome - for example, few respondents now claim to be experiencing problems due to lack of commitment from board members or lack of funding.

"However, one major issue companies appear to have missed is whether their workforce is using the KM system to its best advantage. A significant number of respondents reported problems at the "grass roots", with employees having insufficient time to share knowledge or suffering from information overload. Many companies assume that these are teething problems that will disappear as users familiarise themselves with the new system. In reality, the problem is that many projects were designed in a vacuum, without due consideration to employee needs. Unless these issues are addressed, companies risk wasting the considerable resources they have invested, and are unlikely to realise the full bottom-line benefits."

The survey's findings include:

  • Knowledge management is now recognised as an essential business tool. 79% of respondents thought KM plays an 'extremely' or 'very significant' role in improving competitive advantage.
  • Earlier KM problems are no longer major issues. Only 10% of those with a KM programme in place claimed to be experiencing problems due to a lack of commitment from board members. Likewise, only 22% and 29% respectively complained of a lack of funding or understanding of KM.
  • A significant number of companies are experiencing problems with employee use of KM. 67% of respondents claimed they were suffering from information overload, and the same number claimed that their employees wanted to share knowledge but did not have the time. 62% of respondents felt that their workforce was not using the available technology to share knowledge effectively, while 56% and 50% respectively complained about people 'reinventing the wheel' and having difficulty locating information.
  • Only 20% of those with a KM programme complained of a lack of appropriate technology, illustrating that KM technologies have been widely implemented. 93% of respondents used the internet for knowledge management purposes, 78% used an intranet, and 63% had data warehousing and mining technologies.
  • Most of those companies that felt technology had not met expectations blamed cultural issues. For example, the top reason cited was the lack of user uptake due to insufficient communication (by 20% of respondents), while 19% and 18% of respondents respectively claimed technology was not fully utilised because the system was not integrated into everyday working practices or was too complicated.
  • Respondents were able to access complex information relatively quickly - 61% could access data profiling the purchasing patterns of an individual customer within four hours, as opposed to 38% without a KM programme. 78% and 64% respectively of organisations with a KM programme could identify in under four hours who had last spoken to an individual customer and why they had won a new account.

David Parlby continued: "It is vital at the outset of a KM initiative to ensure the overall programme is as employee-friendly as possible. But, only a third had implemented knowledge policies, stipulating which information to store, update and cull, which may partially explain why so many organisations are suffering from information overload.

"Moreover, less than one in five respondents (18%) had implemented a knowledge map, an employee guide to what information is stored and where, while only 31% had implemented measures to incentivise and reward knowledge working. All of these measures, along with others such as establishing communities of practice or knowledge networks, can all help create a system that can be easily used by the workforce."

Other findings include:

  • Over two-thirds of respondents said they had, or were setting up, a KM programme. 79% of respondents felt that KM could play an 'extremely' or 'very significant' role in improving competitive advantage. 72% of respondents stated that KM has an 'extremely' or 'very significant' role to play in improving customer focus, while 63% felt it to be very instrumental in both revenue and profit growth.
  • Almost three-quarters of those with a KM programme in place said they had achieved better decision making, 68% said they had achieved faster response to key business issues, and 64% said they had achieved better customer handling.

For further information, please speak to your usual KPMG contact.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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