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Information overload driving changes to UK business behaviour

Symantec has announced the findings of a study revealing that the explosion of digital information is driving behavioural change across organisations as employees contend with, and try to manage, the rapidly increasing flow of information.


Date: 14 Dec 2011

With today’s employees able to create, duplicate and access information on a number of devices in a 24/7 business model, organisations are increasingly facing the challenge of managing security, maximising storage utilisation and maintaining IT responsiveness. Symantec commissioned a YouGov study of 1,017 UK office workers from businesses of all sizes across public, private and non-profit sectors to better understand the experiences of individuals operating in today’s information economy. It also looked at measures organisations can take to support their workforce and ensure effective working practices.

Key findings from the 1,017 UK office workers questioned include:
• 62 percent of survey respondents access work information electronically outside of normal business hours
• 69 percent take company information from the office network to work from home or elsewhere
• 57 percent of those who access work information, on a mobile device, outside of office hours, use a personal mobile
• Over one in five (21%) say they keep emails and files unnecessarily because they simply don’t have time to sort through them
• Over a third (34%) of respondents tend to keep emails because they are concerned that if they delete something that they later need, they won’t be able to retrieve it
• Nearly a fifth (18%) of those who search IT systems for work information spend half an hour or more doing so in their average working day

A nation of information addicts
British office workers are becoming addicted to information, with over two thirds (62 percent) accessing work information out of hours – 14 percent of these even admit to checking their mobile devices more than ten times every day. Men tend to be more hooked, with 15 percent more saying they log on out of hours than women (68 percent vs. 53 percent).

The study results also demonstrate that business data is on the move despite increasing awareness among organisations of the importance of protecting confidential data and ensuring compliance. More than two thirds (69 percent) of employees have removed company information from the office network to work from home or elsewhere and over a third (35 percent) take information away with them at least once a week.

In addition, of those who access business information electronically outside of working hours, over half (57 percent) admit to using their personal mobile devices to do so, highlighting the gulf that still remains when it comes to educating employees on the potential dangers of such practice and the importance of a well communicated security policy.

Workers drowning in deluge of (outdated) information
Today’s fast flow of information means we’re also in danger of becoming a nation of information hoarders, through time pressures or fear of losing something important. More than a fifth (21 percent) of office workers admit to keeping emails and files unnecessarily because they simply don’t have time to sort through them, placing often unnecessary pressure and cost on organisations’ IT infrastructure.

Over a third (34 percent) of employees tend to keep emails because they are concerned that if they delete something that they later need, they won’t be able to retrieve it. Almost a quarter (24 percent) said their company does not have, or they did not know if they have any system in place to help them find or retrieve lost documents, highlighting the need for organisations to effectively manage the relentless data growth and backup process, enabling them to communicate to employees the ability to recover lost data when necessary.

One in ten (10%) struggle to find what they need on their company IT system and while over two thirds (40 percent) claim they can usually find what they need, they’re not so sure it’s up to date, indicating that information duplication and version control is a growing issue. Nearly a fifth (18 percent) of employees who look for information spend half an hour or more every day searching for files and information on their work IT system.

The report demonstrates that while employees are struggling to keep up with data explosion, organisations are also challenged by the resulting pressures to protect and manage ever-increasing amounts of information from multiple devices.

Gareth Fraser-King, head of Technical Field Enablement, Information Management Group at Symantec, said: “With the amount of information created and replicated expected to surpass 1.8 zettabytes during 2011[1] and real time communications at the heart of business, it’s important that employees can access the information they need, when they need it and not live in fear of the delete key. However, by implementing an information retention plan that incorporates aspects such as automated archival and intelligent data discovery, it is possible to keep only what is really needed and delete with confidence.

By adopting these intelligent, easy to navigate systems that differentiate between information that should be kept and that which only increases the burden on company systems and leads to unnecessary spending, it is possible for organisations to reduce their current information management headache.

The increase use of mobile devices and social media also means that clear policies and protocols must be implemented and enforced to ensure that information remains well-managed and protected. By educating employees in better practices, organisations can relieve the pressure on individuals and the company infrastructure, helping both to operate more smoothly.”

Practical steps for organisations tackling the information explosion challenge:

• Understand the new business user – organisations need to better understand the challenges employees are facing when navigating the world of information management. Consider when and how employees are accessing their information, ensure that data is both indexed and categorised, and deploy an intelligent archiving and search tools
• Prepare the infrastructure - with the relentless flow of information only set to continue, organisations need to ensure that their IT infrastructure is able to cost effectively manage the increasing requirements for storage by implementing solutions able to deduplicate and archive appropriately, automate processes and monitor and report on system status across a number of different platforms
• Prepare people - develop IT policies that educate employees on how to manage their information - from email practices like limiting the ‘CC’ and ‘reply to all culture’, to saving only the latest document version and overcoming the fear of the delete button. Help employees understand the company’s information retention strategy so they know what information is recoverable. This will empower them to take charge of information control and maintain productivity and efficiency
• Keep security front of mind – it seems like an obvious statement, but reinforcing company security policies around mobile devices could protect against significant and damaging data loss. Make sure employees know the company processes and take advantage of technologies that enable the IT department to see where the most important information is, at all times
• Encourage staff to switch off – with the information era in full swing and with more and more opportunity for employees to stay connected at all times, it’s important that organisations support staff welfare and encourage them to switch off every once in a while


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