Middle Managers Struggle to Find Useful Data

January 5, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - While today's corporate middle managers may have a plethora of high-tech toys to help them process information, that apparently has not helped them to always find the precise data they need.

That was a key finding of an Accenture survey of middle managers of large US and UK companies, which also discovered that managers spend up to two hours a day searching for information, according to an Accenture news release. When they do, more than 50% of what they find is worthless, respondents said.

Nearly three out of five respondents (59%) said, as a consequence of poor information distribution, they miss information that might be valuable to their jobs almost every day. In addition, 42% of respondents said they accidentally use the wrong information at least once a week.

More than half (57%) said having to go to numerous sources to compile information is a difficult challenge in performing their duties.

According to the survey, to get information about competitors, customers, project responsibility or another department, respondents said they have to go to an average of three different information sources. In addition, 40% of respondents said other parts of the company are not willing to share information, and 36% said there is so much information available it takes a long time to sift through it.

The majority of managers in the survey said they store their most valuable information on their computer or individual e-mail accounts, with only 16% using a collaborative work space such as a company’s intranet portal.

The respondents to the survey were drawn from five function areas: customer service, finance and accounting, human resources (HR), information technology (IT), and sales and marketing. Examining specific departments:

  • IT and HR managers were most likely to say their ability to find the information for their jobs is hindered because there is “too much information” (42% of IT managers and 40% of HR managers).
  • IT managers said, on average, less than half (44%) of the information they receive for their job is of value. In addition, nearly half (47%) of IT managers – more than any other department – said they spend nearly 30% of their work week trying to track down relevant information for their jobs.
  • Half (51%) of customer service managers – more than managers in any other area – said they were likely to encounter challenges when gathering data.
  • Only 11% of finance and accounting managers – less than for any other function – said they believe their company has invested enough in the right technologies to help them get the information they need.
  • Sales and marketing managers were the least likely to use new technology to communicate, with only 19% using instant messaging, less than any of the other department managers. Use of PDAs by sales and marketing managers is also very low, again at 19%, only slightly higher than that of finance and accounting managers (16%).

The Web-based survey of 1,009 managers in companies with reported annual revenues of more than $500 million was conducted in June 2006.