A guest post by Jeremy Bentley, Chief Executive, Smartlogic

Information is at the heart of what most enterprises do. For some it is their product and lifeblood; for others it lubricates all aspects of their operation. The fact is that, in one form or another, information management is vital for virtually any organisation, particularly as tough economic conditions prevail, and the more efficiently enterprise content is controlled and accessed, the more effective organizations’ operations become. After all, we all operate in an ‘information economy’ these days.

Astonishingly, however, new research shows that organisations of all types – private, public, not-for-profit – are failing to make internal information easily accessible to staff, clients, investors and other stakeholders. Our Industry Information Index, a benchmarking study conducted by MindMetre Research, demonstrates clearly that information efficiency in every sector is fundamentally unsatisfactory with no industry scoring more than 50% and the total score for all sectors a lowly 38% – that is, fewer than half the organisations in any sector rate their industry as capable across the four categories examined (search effectiveness, categorization proficiency, fragmentation of systems, and progress and investment in content management).

The most astounding research finding is that the sectors dominating the bottom half of the Index are those enterprises that largely generate and depend on unstructured information – all in all a rather damning showing. The sectors that the Index indicates struggle most with their information efficiency include Media & Publishing and Banking, which need to generate huge numbers of smaller articles and information items that can be sorted and streamed to their clients – news, comment, blogs, reviews, alerts, market updates, financial results and other announcements. Other sectors in the bottom half of the table include Information & Research, Chemical & Pharmaceutical, High-tech & IT and Aerospace – industries that depend on very large pieces of complex content such as research, product development reports, market analysis and technical specifications.

The worst showing was by Media & Publishing. Media organizations not only depend on their capacity to find reliable information – often relying on their own previous articles for background to avoid needlessly redoing work and to ensure accuracy – but increasingly on their ability to instantaneously deliver relevant information to subscribers. With the internet providing few barriers to entry for rival media brands, especially in specialized fields, established players have to maintain a competitive advantage by harnessing their vast archives while employing their extensive information-gathering resources to capture new pieces of content.

Similarly, Hi-tech & IT, placed – counter-intuitively – second to bottom, a surprisingly poor showing from an industry that should be savvy to the importance and availability of leading-edge information management technology and practices. The very nature of this sector, with its constant innovation, on-going research and changing market conditions, means the ability to develop new products and leverage information assets within both the consumer and B2B fields is essential.

But no sector in the Index covered itself in glory. The results showed that, for any enterprise using information assets to achieve commercial success or meet a mandate, there is serious concern. In fact, the findings make clear that far too many organisations are struggling with information overload, information governance issues, the limits of existing information management systems, and an increasing need to re-purpose and monetise information. Clearly, no business, government organization or non-profit enterprise can afford to be complacent when so few are able to systematically manage and make use of their most valuable information assets.

Clearly, too many business, government and non-profit organisations are having serious trouble leveraging their information assets – a worrying trend when one considers that a March 2009 IDC study found that reducing the time wasted dealing with information overload by even 15% could save a company with 500 employees $2 million a year. For large international firms, that number could be much greater.

Better control of and access to information is absolutely crucial to all organisations – and by no means beyond any enterprise’s grasp. On the contrary, the Index reveals that service, productivity and, ultimately, profitability in virtually every industry can be improved. One key means of doing so is by introducing ‘Content Intelligence’ to the information management system – that is, utilizing a bolt-on system that uses taxonomies and existing information management platforms to improve business intelligence, work flow, collaboration and search, turning unstructured content into actionable information.

At a time when organisations are facing mounting pressures to improve efficiency, deal with a proliferation of new information and overcome a legacy of poor practice, it is imperative that they implement cost-effective solutions to facilitate access to, and use of, their information archives. Putting an effective and consistent categorisation system in place ensures quick and easy access to the right information and means better access to corporate knowledge, improved risk management and compliance, superior customer relationship management, enhanced ‘findability’ for key audiences, and an improved ability to monetise information.