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Almost 50 per cent of CEOs dealing with information overload

By Daniel Kosir |

Decision makers in the business world are drowning in information.

According to a new study conducted by the Leger Marketing on behalf of SAS Institute, executives across Canada are struggling to manage the magnitude of information coming their way.

Almost half of Canadian executives surveyed said the amount of information they have overwhelms them, with one in four stating that they aren't confident they have the right information to make effective business decisions.

The nation-wide survey also found that while most provinces and business sectors showed little change from the 2010 survey, there were a few that felt information overload was worsening.

Respondents from the academic and education sector were more likely to say things were getting worse, with 61 per cent saying they suffer from information overload, up from 42 percent in 2010.

Too Much Information

With the amount of available information increasing and flowing more rapidly, Canadian executives understand that having the right information is better than having all the information.

While 80 percent of respondents believe they would make more informed business decisions if they had more effective tools to analyze information, 24 per cent say they do not have the right information to make effective decisions about their business performance. 

  • 28 per cent of executives in the food/beverage/retail industries say they do not have the right data about their customers to make effective business decisions;
  • 96 per cent of executives across the country think it is important to have access to information  to improve decision making, yet three in ten admit their IT departments are not able to support their information needs; and
  • 51 per cent of executives say data is the most under-utilized asset in their organization.

Sharing Information

The survey also found that apparently, we're not very good at sharing information. The study indicates that 82 per cent of executives think their staff could share information more efficiently than they do.

Results also show that almost 75 per cent of executives say the information about their department or business performance is not always accurate, timely, useful, or easy to understand.

"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," says Elie Elia, a professor in the Department of Management and Technology at 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," she adds.

The biggest concern for executives in 2011 was the timeliness of information, with one in six
saying the information they receive is rarely or never timely.

Keeping Up: Business Analytics

According to Kathryn Brohman, a Management Information Systems professor at Queen's University School of Business, addressing information overload often requires organizations to make significant procedural changes.

"For organizations to be successful combating information overload they need both the right technology and the right procedures," states Brohman.

And it seems that Canadian businesses are catching on. Results show that there is a national trend toward understanding business analytics software and its value.

Only 13 per cent of respondents said their organization did not need business analytics tools, down from 21 percent in 2010. Alberta saw the most significant drop, from 22 per cent stating they did not need the technology in 2010 to only 6 per cent this year.

Fortunately, tools and software like those offered by SAS are more prolific and readily available than in the past. Multiple web apps and information on business analytics tools are offered by a wide variety of hosts and are easily accessible both on and offline. 



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