In July 2002, Gartner published a research paper “The Knowledge Worker Investment Paradox” highlighting the challenges faced when implementing systems to retain knowledge. Their research confirmed what many have known since ‘knowledge management’ systems first appeared:
- Employees get 50% to 75% of their relevant information directly from other people.
- More than 80% of enterprises’ digitized information resides on individual hard drives and in personal files.
- Individuals hold the key to the knowledge economy and most of it is lost when they leave the enterprise.
To show this visually:
1. Employees get 50 – 75% of their relevant information directly from other people
On the bar chart, the blue section represents information stored in peoples’ heads. Some of that information may also exist in written form, but we still get the information direct from a person rather than look for it on a computer or in a filing cabinet…
2. More than 80% of enterprises’ digitised information resides on individual hard drives and in personal files
We know that the large majority of information remains in peoples’ heads. Of the information that does get stored in written form (digital or paper), 80% is located in individual documents and applications, difficult to access by anyone other than the owner/author.
On the bar chart, the blue section represents the amount of time we get answers direct from other people, the green section represents the information we retrieve from private data sources. The orange section at the bottom of the chart represents the amount of information we find in shared data sources, such as intranets and company-wide applications.
That means that, being optimistic, 10% of an organisation’s information is available as a shared network resource… so how’s that search engine project going? 😉
3. Individuals hold the key to the knowledge economy and most of it is lost when they leave the enterprise
No surprises here – this concern alone launched an industry around knowledge management. Unfortunately, most forgot to acknowledge the human side of the equation when attempting to suck knowledge out of peoples’ heads to increase that 10% pot of shared data…
Why does this all matter? Too often, companies focus massive efforts on implementing organisation-wide technologies to make information ‘easy’ to find. This includes implementing advanced search engines and corporate taxonomies. All in order to be able to find approximately 10% of the organisation’s information. Now, that’s not to say such efforts don’t have value, I just worry when I see a large investment in time, money and resources be focused on so narrow an area of the organisation’s information assets. There are quicker, simpler, and easier tools that can be implemented to help unlock the other 90%, yet they can be ignored in the quest to create the ‘perfect’ company index…
Companies that focus on collaboration and improving the ability for people to find each other and share expertise typically see far greater returns on their investment than those who focus on organising written data. The advent of XML and tagging to improve retrieval techniques will improve search dramatically, but it still focuses on explicit information – you can’t tag stuff in peoples’ heads.
Still not convinced? Try this quote:
People are 5 times more likely to ask another person for information than query a system – Tom Allen, MIT
That’s saying, 80% of the time, we go to people first – makes Gartner sound optimistic…
- This entry is filed on the web site under Elements Process The Information Challenge