A recent McKinsey report states 61% of the average white collar worker’s time is spent looking for information they need to do their job. This is a horrifying statistic if it’s true but in our experience probably not reflective of reality. We suspect for many organisations the figure may be more like 20%. But even at that level, the loss of productivity is sickening. If we take the McKinsey report at face value, more time spent looking than doing, there is a lot to unpack in that statement, isn’t there?

The reality nowadays is that email is the new paper and it moves faster through an organisation and ends up in more people’s in trays than paper ever did. Email is no better than paper in executing knowledge-based processes however it is much quicker at getting things to the bottleneck. And when push comes to shove, the phone is the way to interrupt other people to get the information that you need because now it’s urgent!

There is a string of foundation steps to consider when tackling this in an enterprise.

  • What content is being generated by systems?
  • What content is being generated by people?
  • If it is not digital, why isn’t it?
  • If it can’t be created in digital then how is it to be converted to digital?
  • Where is it stored?
  • Under what context(s) is this content generated?
  • Under what context(s) can the content be used?
  • What are the security protocols?
  • What are the governance controls for updating/deleting it?
  • How is it certified as correct/final/approved?
  • If it is to be used as a template how do we make sure everyone uses it and keep it up to date?
  • How is it categorised to ensure it can be found again?
  • How is it being incorporated into processes?
  • Are the resulting decisions appropriately visible and readily auditable?

There can be little argument that technology will play a massive part in addressing this mound of spaghetti but one of the first and most critical steps to take is to define the information architecture.

This isn’t about technology, this is good old fashioned thinking, and sometimes thinking is harder than hard work. How do we corral, catalogue and contextualise all the various content in such a way that we can sensibly file them and reliably find them again? And what governance controls do we need to maintain compliance as things change later on?

(Side note: Of course this is no surprise to the office of the CFO. Most senior finance professionals have lamented their chart of accounts structure at some time or other and quite likely have run one or more chart reorganisation projects to realign the books to the business.)

Information architecture design, like a good chart reorg, gets easier with practice. If you’ve never done it before then it is hard to know where to start. If you think your white collar people are spending even 20%, let alone the McKinsey 60%, on looking for the information they need to do their job then we can help you turn that around.


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