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FreePint BlogFinding that missing email? Priceless!

Monday, 28th November 2011 Please login top-right to be able to star items

By Tim Buckley Owen


As regularly as Thanksgiving or Christmas, reports come round showing how we’re overwhelmed with information and usually touting their own solutions. Sure enough, here come not one but two – but do they really tell us anything about the bigger picture?

IT heads receive on average 15 requests a week from colleagues who need to get hold of old or archived emails. Almost half of those surveyed confessed that they had no IT solution for ensuring they could get hold of them when they needed them, even though almost one in five said that the information locked in old emails was “priceless”.

Unsurprisingly the United States based company that commissioned the survey, GFI Software, has its own answer to this in the form of archiving, back-up and security solutions. And so too does the British information mapping software provider Mindjet.

Mindjet’s survey (navigate to 23 November) also starts with emails, noting that a third of them go unread and finding that each employee spends two weeks a year searching for information they know they’ve seen but can’t now find, costing businesses over £1,200 per year per person. Mindjet’s fix is collaborative work management solutions, and it provides a Data Mass Index Calculator to help you decide whether you’re coping or not.

Solutions like these may well confer benefits – but we need to look at the bigger picture before deciding on the best answer to what is by now an all-pervasive problem. In a recent article in EContent magazine, Martin White put the challenges implied by these two small surveys into their proper context.

Crucially, it’s not just a technology problem. Drawing on a McKinsey report published earlier this year (LiveWire comment here), Martin emphasised that the issue was as much one of analytical and managerial talent as it was technology, adding that “the intersection of structured and unstructured information is the place to be at present”.

So what next? Well, maybe information professionals do need to get in on the shock horror findings act too if they are to demonstrate to decision makers the damage that can be done if good use isn’t made of an enterprise’s information management skills. And if you’re in the financial services sector, a new survey being run by the iconoclastic Register newsletter may be one place to start.

Making sure people have the information they need when they need it is the best way to improve productivity, the Register finds – but there’s a “yawning chasm” between reality and the desired state. It’s currently running a survey to try to find out just how bad things are and – if previous comments are anything to go by – it likes responses from non-IT folk. Worth a try?


About this item:

Tim is an information skills trainer and writer on the information industry with over 40 years' experience in the profession. His career has encompassed information management, writing, editing, training, government policy advice and corporate media & marketing.

Besides writing for FreePint, Tim runs courses for training providers and private clients on enquiry handling, abstracting & summarising, information packaging & presentation and information management. The sixth edition of his classic handbook Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is published by Facet Publishing. You can find details of Tim's training services at

Tim can also be reached at

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FreePint Topics
Sources: Staying informed and aware
Technology: Improving information work with technology
Value: Maximising value for information work and investment
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