TEST to main content First level navigation Menu
tangled wire in a system concept

How information gridlock creates atrophy

by ​Deb Scifres
If information isn’t getting where it needs to be, read on.

Imagine this situation.

While information gridlock may start out as a small problem, it can spread like a virus across your entire organization.

You’re stuck at an airport during a freak winter snowstorm. You’re scheduled to fly out in two hours, but there’s nobody at the gate to answer questions. Frustrated, you call their customer service line, provide your information, and are told that they’ll get back with you as soon as they know anything more about your flight. You hang up, and idly check the airline’s app, but there’s nothing new there either. Finally, someone from the airline gets to the gate, but they don’t know when your flight will take off, the answers to your questions, or really, anything at all about you and what you’ve been asking others within the company.

This incredibly frustrating experience is brought to you by information bottlenecks—gridlock within an organization that doesn’t allow information to get where it needs to go. And as you can see, it can significantly impact major portions of your business.
Many people using digital tools at once

Areas of gridlock

That was just one example of information gridlock and how it can affect your organization. And though not all problems will directly affect customers, they all have a negative impact. This gridlock can have a cascading effect throughout your entire organization, as bad decisions pile up and time is wasted. Departments become siloed. Productivity is lost and efficiency declines. The result is atrophy, as your organization slowly paralyzes itself from within.

What’s worse is that while this gridlock can be a root cause of business atrophy, it’s very difficult to pin down as the actual source of the problem unless you know what you’re looking for. This sort of atrophy tends to happen slowly, so it’s rare that someone pays attention until the problem has become large enough to slow down numerous business processes. But when it’s a big problem, many organizations tend to treat the immediate symptoms of the problem, rather than finding the root cause. So while information gridlock may start as a small problem, it can spread like a virus across your entire organization.

Where does this gridlock occur? According to IDC research commissioned by Ricoh, there are six major areas where information gridlock can afflict your organization. Three of these are:

  • Collaboration tools: Despite the fact most organizations recognize the value of immediate and effective collaboration, many organizations aren’t providing their workers with the collaboration tools they need to be successful. Just a quarter of all organizations are supplying collaboration tools to their employees.
  • Mobile support: We live in an interconnected world becoming increasingly mobile, and we’ve long talked about the importance of information management. But despite these trends, just 29 percent of workers can access core enterprise software applications on their mobile devices. If organizations do not support mobility, their workers simply will not have the sort of anytime, anywhere access to information they need to be most effective at their jobs.
  • Silos: One of the more interesting facts found in the IDC research was that while half of all workers need access to six or more information repositories to do their jobs, just 18 percent are able to search across those repositories. Think back to the example of the airport. The agent at the gate didn’t have the same information as the people on the customer service line who didn’t have the same information as what was input into the airline’s app. Now imagine that in your organization, repeated again and again.

A siloed organization lacking effective collaboration tools and support for mobile is simply not an organization that will survive for long in the new world of work


Break on through

Unfortunately, information gridlock can affect a number of additional areas within your organization. These include:

  • Workflow processes: Unoptimized processes are a major contributor to information gridlock. Broken processes don’t just cause delays. They can be a serious risk and liability hazard to your organization. Three quarters of workers have already experienced serious compliance issues as a result of these broken processes. But despite the danger, just 41 percent of organizations have automated most of all of their workflows.
  • Trapped information: Paper is one of the least efficient means of transmitting information, but if yours is like most organizations, you still have a significant amount of information—especially historical records and other such data—still stored on paper, where it’s extremely difficult to access and use. This is a bottleneck that can only be addressed via digitization, a strong records management program, and a commitment to an organizational search strategy that meets the needs of your workers.
  • Institutional knowledge: The workforce is changing, and as older, more established workers retire, they’re taking a lot of critical business information with them. If they aren’t passing this knowledge along, you’re losing valuable insights into nearly every aspect of your organization.
Keep in mind information flow within an organization can encompass everything from your customers’ private data to the correct method of using a particular billing software. It can be big or small, and without a plan to break through the gridlock that traps your information and prevents you from achieving your business goals, you may find your organization stuck in neutral—or worse. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can better optimize processes, access information in any format and build a culture of knowledge-sharing, so that key business data never walks out the front door, never to return.

Break through information gridlock

To learn more about how your organization can address issues now for future success, check out this guidebook on how to effectively manage content for streamlined information flow.
Deb Scifres
Deb Scifres, Principal Consultant for the Ricoh USA, Inc. Consulting Services Business Process Agility group, specializes in customer experience transformation from strategy to implementation. Scifres works with customers in Finance, Beauty and Fashion, Entertainment, Media, Energy, Federal Government, Insurance and Aerospace to help organizations with information optimization. She has a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Science from Wichita State University.