The Paradox of the Information Age: Why Workflow and Smooth Processes Should Be a Top Priority for Any Business

October 16 2014


Author: Erasmus Holm

Master Data Management (MDM) paves the way for companies who want to implement multichannel strategies, personalize customer experiences and strengthen its supply chain. Fewer companies may be aware that MDM has just as many beneficial effects internally on a company. That is a shame, since the overall business success depends heavily on the underlying internal processes to run smoothly, and for workflow and collaboration to be highly operative.

Unfortunately these qualities are being challenged. Each day the average knowledge worker is bombarded with an incomprehensible load of information. Yet, he or she spends an estimated 1/5 of his or her work hours weekly looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues to help with specific tasks[1].

This may be one of our times’ biggest business paradoxes: Employees are suffering from information overload and information “underload” at the same time.

The high cost of not finding information

Most people will probably recognize this situation: I have a task to solve. I spend a lot of time looking for answers in systems and asking colleagues and along the way I learn something new. What do I do with the information gained? Optimally, I update it in the shared data system if the company has one. But more than likely, I store it in my “important email” folder or perhaps send an email to colleagues for whom I think the information is relevant. Maybe I enter it in a spreadsheet and save it on a shared team drive, maybe just in a document on my own desktop or worst of all I store it in my head.

What I just described is the creation of an information silo – a brutal workflow stopper that costs companies tremendous amounts of resources. You see, next time an employee is in a similar situation, he or she will most likely be chasing the exact same information. Perhaps he or she also stores the information on a shared drive or in a homemade spreadsheet. How will the third employee know which version is the more current one, assuming he or she ever finds it? Now we have potential duplication that contains high risks of errors, while all involved employees have wasted time unnecessarily.

What is even worse is when information is isolated it is completely useless for the rest of the company, regardless of the potential value. Moreover, siloed information is the biggest source of poor decision-making and miscommunication. Surveys suggest that 59% of middle managers miss valuable information every day, simply because they cannot find it[2].

Tripling the output per employee

This information paradox cries out for better workflow processes in the shape of automation and transparency. The top areas where companies would like to see workflow automation are:

  • Bottlenecks that slow things down (48% of surveyed companies)
  • Duplication of work (46%)
  • Poor interaction between departments[3]

This is where Master Data Management enters the scene.

Master Data Management ensures one central platform with one version of data, and automatically pushes out data to those who need it, whether it is an employee, a website or a supplier. But it is also a business philosophy – a discipline not just referring to hardware or software but a comprehensive organizational mind-set.

Whether an MDM initiative succeeds or fails depends largely upon the people using the systems, not just the system itself. That is why MDM is all about getting the entire organization on-board by communicating the importance of high data standards. It requires that organizations establish data governance policies, build solid data models and business rules that establish a clear approval process for data entering the information ecosystem, as well as training the workforce.

Yes, there is some MDM groundwork to be done in particular in the implementation of the solution as well as during its maintenance. However, once having that valuable information in the system, the entire business will benefit enormously.

These are just a few of the internal paybacks:

  • Employees have access to the right information when they need it, maximizing effectiveness
  • Improved flow of data, enabling better collaboration and workflow
  • Accurate and consistent communication
  • Transparent processes: Determine where and why a link in a chain is broken
  • More automated and effective processes, e.g. product on-boarding, inventory management, product data maintenance and more
  • High agility, e.g. allowing organizations to quickly enter new markets

With an MDM solution, employees can spend their time on value-added work instead of chasing information and duplicating content. Imagine the resources it frees up to do valuable work and to invest in further development, innovation and maximal growth.

[1] The McKinsey & Company research report The Social Economy

[2] Accenture Survey

[3] 2014 CompTIA study

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