The trouble with too much information - The Past, Present & Future in Information Management

01 Jan 1970 1:00 am

In a recent survey conducted by LexisNexis, we asked 500 people working in information services how they felt their role had changed since the digital revolution. This blog is the second in a series where we contemplate the findings from the survey. Here we highlight the challenges of information overload.

Past, present & Future report

In our last blog we highlighted the shift from physical research to desktop-based information gathering. A decade ago information managers were part analyst and part detective. Sources were harder to find and they had to go looking... in libraries, databases or even in the field. As we'll see in this post, the digital revolution has changed all that.

According to our survey of 500 information managers, the lack of sources of information is no longer a problem. Quite the reverse in fact; there is now too much. The growing volume of data is putting information managers under unprecedented pressure.

Big data

A continued growth in data for the foreseeable future

Over the past five years the use of social networks as source material has increased more than 350%, blogs by more than 250% and RSS feeds by 200%. But it is not just external sources of information that have grown. The amount of data captured internally is also exploding and analysing these large data sets will become a key feature for information managers. The increasing volume and detail of this information – ‘big data’ – along with the continued rise of social media and the Internet – will create more exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future. Unsurprisingly then, the survey reveals that one of the key challenges facing information managers today is that there is too much to do, too much information to analyse and too many sources to monitor.

In addition to information overload and rising demands from stakeholders, accuracy remains a critical issue. For Henning Heinrich, Vice President of Market Intelligence, T-Systems International, the ability to rapidly extract and condense essential information from a data pool, and deliver it to internal clients in an accessible form, is crucial.  As he noted: "We cannot neglect our quality standards and must ensure we maintain the required levels of expertise.”

Of course, the internet is a major source that can impact accuracy. Organisations are increasingly self-searching for insight on the open web. However, while this democratisation of information is seen by some as a threat to the information manager role, it is the challenge of assuring the validity of the data that causes most concern - particularly if the information is being used to underpin business decisions.

Despite all of this, the role of information as a catalyst for competitive advantage is not in doubt.

Ten years ago information was deemed important, but information managers felt their work was as likely to be put in a drawer as acted upon. In today’s internet economy information is currency. And its value in helping a business innovate, engage more effectively with customers and gain competitive advantage has been fully understood.

So the environment for the information manager has changed significantly – still playing detective but on a much wider scale, tracking down that unique piece of information from millions of sources.

If you have found this article thought-provoking, you might be interested in the next blog in our series where we look at how free information from the internet is impacting the work of the information manager.

Click here to download a copy of the Past, Present & Future of Information Management report.