Data volume continues to overwhelm workplace

Employees struggle to locate information needed to make business decisions amid data surges. EMC exec underscores need for companies to adopt strategy that fits their business practices and protect "only what you need".

Rising data volume continues to plague the workplace as employees struggle to locate information they need to make business decisions.

Whitney Tidmarsh, chief marketing officer of EMC's information intelligence group, said the average knowledge worker spends 25 percent of his time searching for information and often has to resort to creating that data when it cannot be found.

This translates to huge amount of loss hours, Tidmarsh said in an interview Thursday with ZDNet Asia.

Her observations were supported in an Avanade survey released Tuesday which revealed that c-level executives worldwide felt overwhelmed by exponential surges in data and as a result, were making delayed and inaccurate decisions. In addition, the study revealed that 93 percent of IT executives based in Singapore were struggling with large amounts of data, as compared to 56 percent globally.

Tidmarsh noted: "If information is available at their fingertips, then clearly the company is gaining efficiency because they are able to apply those hours to other productive tasks, and we've seen this in various work processes that can save millions."

She cautioned that while it is important to implement new technology to manage data, changes in work behavior and business requirements needed to drive adoption are also some factors businesses need to look at.

According to EMC statistics, most companies are managing only 20 percent of their data, while the rest of unstructured information come from sources such as instant messaging and e-mail messages. The enterprise data storage vendor estimates that 85 percent of a company's unstructured data are left untouched with no policies on how to retain or handle the information.

Asked if there was a need to add to the volume of data organizations already have to manage, Tidmarsh clarified that companies should only manage what they need to. She recommends that businesses implement simple housekeeping practices and data policies that befit their operations.

"You can't govern everything," she said. "I think companies need to put in place a strategy that befits their business practices. Protect only what you need, sorting through some of that 'file intelligence approach', put things that can be archived off the production system, and implement better management practices that matter to the organization."

The EMC executive also noted "a huge waste of IT cost in buying for the highest common denominator of storage", and pointed to the vendor's decision to diversify its products to "allow clients to have high- and low-cost options".

She noted that by diversifying their deployment of data systems, utilizing the right storage and the right time, companies can save 60 to 70 percent of their storage costs.

When quizzed about enterprise content management (ECM), Tidmarsh replied that it has been widely adopted and noted that the infrastructure is really a combination of document and knowledge management--buzzwords from almost 10 years ago.

"Knowledge management was seen as a 'lofty' objective, rather difficult to obtain, but the principles were very good. And frankly, that was where the roots of collaboration came about," she said. "Now we're seeing much more focused business processes and automation around that, and how it marries document management."

According to the Avanade survey, IT executives acknowledged that the surge in data was worrying, but 60 percent of Singapore respondents viewed available sources of data as a strategic differentiator for their organization.

Globally, this figure clocked at 46 percent, where respondents worldwide said they "struggle to see big data as a driver of real business value". Instead, they viewed data as a consequence of doing business.

Kevin Wo, vice president of Avanade Singapore, said in the report:"It's clear many companies see huge potential benefits if they can leverage big data effectively, but key to this is the ability to manage it."


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