Information Consolidation: Organizational Spring Cleaning (Part 1)

It might not be Spring, but it's a great time to think about getting fit and organized...not just personally, but at your workplace, too.

Resource Article

In this three-part article series, you will learn the importance of de-cluttering and streamlining your company's information assets. Making it easier to find the resources you need will improve the efficiency and productivity of your employees.

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I remember it well: On the first warm day of the year, my mother would get that "twinkle in her eye" and we would all run for cover. It was the beginning of our annual ritual of scrubbing all the base boards, clearing out our winter clothes and saying good-bye to toys and other cherished items that we had outgrown. It was a tedious and bittersweet process, but it was a rite of passage to the fun days of summer.

When you think of spring cleaning, what do you envision?

Now envision this: At your workplace, in physical files, on computers and on the company intranet-how many thousands (or millions) of informational files would you estimate your company possesses? And, how long does it take you to search to find information you need? Do you think your organization needs a special spring cleaning? Here's a startling fact to help you make that decision:

Fact: According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the average worker spends 2.5 hours per day looking for information in the organization's files. So, a year's cost for 1,000 employees searching for this information is approximately $6 million.

That's just too much! But how do we go about de-cluttering and resolving this issue? Get organized with information consolidation.

What is Information Consolidation?

Information consolidation is the process of evaluating and condensing documents to provide users with reliable and concise information in a usable form. Basically, it's like enlisting a professional organizer to de-clutter and spring clean your home. By going through this process, an organization can:

  • Increase information transfer to its audiences.

  • Encourage the use of important, relevant information.

  • Increase the number of employees who use information effectively.

  • Improve employee efficiency and productivity.

Why Consolidate?

Besides the thousands of hours and millions of dollars saved by making information easier to find, why should an organization consider consolidation?

Think About This: What may happen if your employees don't use available information to help them perform their job duties because the information is too difficult to find, read or understand?

  • The employees may become impatient and feel like they're suffering from information overload.

  • They may "make up" information, which can impact standards and consistency, which can increase risk and liability.

  • If you make new information available, regardless of how important or helpful it is, employees may be resistant to finding or accepting it.

Think About This: Is your company required to follow compliance regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA and SEC? All these disclosure regulations mandate organized electronic records. What could happen if a company does not have its information consolidated?

  • If the company receives a subpoena for information, they will not likely be able to adequately and quickly compile everything necessary to address the investigation.

  • The company could face huge fines and other charges for noncompliance.

  • The lack of organization could trigger future audits.

Consolidation Issues

Does the thought of spring cleaning your organization's information make you run for cover like I did as a child? Well, you're not alone. Do any of these issues that other companies have faced sound familiar for your organization?

  • Many companies don't think they have the time or resources to undertake the monumental task of organizing and consolidating their information. They don't even know where to start.

  • Some companies have implemented content management system (CMS) solutions, but the restrictions on these tools make customization and implementation difficult. If they do attempt customization, they quickly realize the high and often unexpected costs that may prevent effective use and an adequate return on investment.

  • Regardless of the effort to streamline information, some employees aren't motivated to use a CMS because of their "tried and true" ways of doing things. For example, they may prefer their old "hard copy" manuals and tools that are earmarked, highlighted and tattered. Change management (to overcome these obstacles) along with information consolidation can be intimidating.

  • If multiple variations of a process, guideline or standard exist, it's often difficult to evaluate and select the "most correct" source. Eliminating redundancy requires a consensus among many stakeholders, and that process alone seems complicated.

  • Even after information consolidation takes place, monitoring and managing contributions can be difficult. Information is constantly being produced, so maintenance is a moving target. On the other hand, information is constantly becoming obsolete and needing to be updated or deleted. So, sometimes the manpower to maintain a structured system seems overwhelming.

There is some good news, though. With a structured and well-defined process, information consolidation is possible and realistic!

What experiences or challenges do you have with consolidating information at your workplace? Please join the conversation in the comments section of this article or feel free to send us an email. We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Continue reading:
Information Consolidation: Organizational Spring Cleaning (Part 2) →
Information Consolidation: Organizational Spring Cleaning (Part 3) →

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