IDC Reports: Information Explosion Leads to Stress! Or should we just use the right tools?

By Johannes Scholtes posted 05-20-2010 07:33


Is it really a problem, or is it simply a matter of overlooking the right tools and technology?

The ongoing information explosion is no longer news; We are all confronted with it, at work and at home. In fact, since this explosion has been occurring for more than 50 years, almost 3 generations are more or less used to it.

But, according to IDC (“Cutting the Clutter: Tackling Information Overload at the Source” by John Gantz, Angele Boyd and Seanna Dowling from IDC), the ongoing information growth, and in particular, our inability to manage and properly search all this information, will not only give us a headache, but it will also lead to stress, lost productivity and burnouts.

Knowledge workers need to process more and more information every day. According to IDC, in 2008 alone, more than US $ 1.5 trillion was lost in employee productivity as a result of information overload. Every week employees spend 20 hours (half of their time!) handling various kinds of information. 75% of employees complain about information overload and 45% are reportedly overwhelmed by all the information. On top of this, IDC predicts that the amount of information will continue to grow by more than 65% every year. Although part of this growth is related to larger file formats due to higher resolution graphics and other (larger) data formats such as multi-media, the amounts are still staggering.

According to IDC, an average company of 500 people could easily save more than US $2 million per year by implementing proper information management systems that help the employees manage and combat the information overload.

The inability to get the right information to the right person at the right time is also cited as a problem. 45% of the employees surveyed said they had the information they needed less than 75% of the time. So, 25% of the time, they could not find the information they needed or they had to make a decision based on incomplete information. Proper exploratory search ( can make a huge difference here.

On his “What’s relevant to me… right now” blog post from October 7, 2009 (, Jason Hoyt shares interesting insight which questions the value of all this additional information. As a picture says  1,000 words, here is a great graph that tells that story:

We are suffering from information obesity, as also presented on this blog: We do not need all that additional information and data; it only distracts us and leads us away from what is really important or valuable information. So, if we can determine what is relevant for us, it is much easier to keep up with all the data. Also, there is so much redundancy in the information available, that after having red 10% of it, you have likely seen it all! You can try that by reading 4 different newspapers, there is very little they do not have in common.

We need to get away from data and information and return to knowledge and wisdom as T.S. Eliot put it many years ago. (

In the IDC survey, 60% of respondents suffered from dealing with various forms of disorganized information, and 25% of their time was spent fighting the information overload Now, these are not new numbers, this is exactly why information management, information governance, information retention and information access are so important and why we write about that on this blog and on many others. We need technology to help us manage, filter and navigate all the information available and keep us focused. 70% of the companies surveyed did manage their information well (they were rated 8 or higher on a 10 point scale).

Human beings are very good at processing and filtering information; Our neural network is designed to do so, and we have done this since the Stone Age. So what is the problem? Maybe we just have to get accustomed to a larger amount of information. But, we are also very adaptive and I believe that after a short time we are able to process the larger amount of information just as well as we could process less information earlier. After all, if were to go back 20 years, many of us would probably miss all the available information and get extremely bored.

I believe that it is possible to manage the information overload and avoid stress. The combination of technology, information management and retention policies, policing of these policies and most of all, discipline to refrain from monitoring your email inbox all day will do the trick.

“Never read your email in morning” by Julie Morgenstern ( changed my life some years ago. I was an email junkie as well. But now,  I don’t let the information manage me; I manage the information and I determine when I want to do what activity.

That takes care of a lot of the stress. Plan your work, manage your information, and process information (email, social network activity, phone, SMS, IM, etc.) on set times and never longer than your other (more important) activities allow. Use the technology to your benefit and you will see that it is easy to manage the information explosion. Don’t be afraid of new technology, you will need it to keep up! Because on the one hand computers will be able to store twice as much information every 18 months, but you will also have the availability of new technology to help you manage the information on hardware that is twice as powerful every 18 months.

A sampling of these technologies includes text analytics, visualization and machine translation for email, archiving, eDiscovery, and information governance. You can learn more about these topics from the following links:


Trying to keep up with the online Joneses can be overwhelming at times. Image courtesy of




#E-mail #e-discovery #ElectronicRecordsManagement #informationmanagement #InformationGovernance