» Archive for December, 2007

A Quick Update from the Information Overload Front

Friday, December 28th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira and David Goldes

Last Wednesday, Basex named Information Overload its 2008 Problem-of-the-Year.  We were hoping to call a bit of attention to the IO problem.  Based on the response thus far, it would appear we succeeded.

The next day, Steve Lohr at the New York Times wrote an article focusing on our news, Is Information Overload a $650 Billion Drag on the Economy?

Yesterday the AP ran a story, Researcher: Info overload costs economy,  which was picked up by a few hundred papers, mostly in the U.S. but also in the U.K. and Australia.  The story was also picked up by business publications such as Forbes and Business Week.

It would appear that we struck a nerve.  As technology has “improved,” our expectations increase.   American novelist Walter Kirn wrote a thoughtful piece in the November issue of The Atlantic, a publication that has engaged thought leaders for 150 years.  In it, Kirn remarks how multitasking is “dumbing us down and driving us crazy.”  He reflects on the cost of unnecessary interruptions: $650 billion, but puts a new spin on the issue, calling the Basex figure “our National Attention Deficit.”  The piece was one man’s odyssey, as he put it “through the nightmare of infinite connectivity.”  But we digress.

The interest was not limited to print media.  CNN, Fox Business News, and NPR all interviewed Jonathan Spira.  A bunch of bloggers have posted their own thoughts on this; one of the better ones is here.

Based on this response it’s fair to say that people are quite interested in the issue.  That is a good thing for everyone.

You can further our research efforts by taking our New Workplace Challenges survey.  Survey takers are eligible to win a Palm Treo 750 smartphone with Windows Mobile 6.

Please take the survey today and feel free to share this link with colleagues.  The more input we get via the survey, the more we can do to solve the problem of Information Overload together.

In the meantime, best wishes for 2008, a year in which we will continue the fight against Information Overload.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.    David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Information Overload: The 2008 Problem of the Year

Friday, December 21st, 2007 by Jonathan Spira and David Goldes

In December 2003, we named spam e-mail our Product-of-the-Year for 2004, explaining that this was akin to Time magazine’s naming Adolf Hitler Man of the Year in 1938.  Spam, we wrote back then, was “a disruptive force that has had a major impact on almost everyone who uses a computer.”

The Product-of-the-Year designation is meant to recognize technologies that have had a major impact on how we work using information technology – and nothing has had a more profound effect than the disruptive nature of spam.  Until now, that is.

This week we named Information Overload as the 2008 Problem-of-the-Year.

Whether sitting at a desk in the office, in a conference room, in one’s home office, or at a client, the likelihood of being able to complete a task (what many call “work”) without interruption is nil.  Content creation has gone off the charts and new forms of content are being pushed towards us at a rapid pace.  It’s not just e-mail, junk mail, text messages, phone calls, and monthly reports anymore.

Intel, a company with 94,000 employees, sees Information Overload as a serious problem.  “At Intel we estimated the impact of information overload on each knowledge worker at up to eight hours a week,” says Nathan Zeldes, a Principal Engineer focusing on computing productivity issues at Intel.  “We are now looking at applying new work behaviors that can help reduce this impact”.

Shari Lawrence Pfleeger, a senior information scientist at the RAND Corporation, sees Information Overload as an impediment to getting her work done.  “We are more connected than ever, but we must manage not only our connections but also the increasing volumes of information flowing over them.  We continue to sort useful mail from junk mail, but we are additionally stressed by sorting useful phone calls from junk calls, useful email from spam, and in general useful from useless (and even dangerous) information.  To get really important work done, I find it helpful to take a holiday from my connections so that I can focus on the work at hand.”

We believe that 2008 will be the year we begin to solve the problem of information overload in a substantive way.

In conjunction with the Problem-of-the-Year announcement, Basex is announcing a survey on information overload and today’s work environment challenges.  Ironically, the latest office productivity tools designed to increase productivity are often having the opposite effect.

The survey can be found at http://www.basex.com/btwiosurv1 and survey takers are eligible to win a Palm Treo 750 smartphone with Windows Mobile 6.

Please take the survey today (http://www.basex.com/btwiosurv1) and feel free to share this link with colleagues.  The more input we get via the survey, the more we can do to solve the problem of Information Overload together.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.  David Goldes is president of Basex.

How Airbus Lost €4.8 Billion: Part II

Friday, December 14th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

With the release last week of our report  Airbus Hits Turbulence: How Knowledge Sharing Failures Cost Airbus €4.8 Billion,  we are presenting the report’s executive study in two parts.  Part I was presented in last week’s edition of Basex:TechWatch and here on the blog.  We now continue now with Part II.

With significant orders from some of the largest names in the airline industry, including Emirates, Virgin and Lufthansa before A380 production delays set in, Airbus seemed well on its way to establishing itself as the leader in the wide-body jet market. But Airbus’ lack of foresight in project management led to significant multi-national knowledge sharing and collaboration failures.

Far from being a unified company, Airbus’ management and production teams span many European companies. Although Airbus technically unified under the auspices of EADS, Airbus still operates as multiple semi-autonomous companies. The merger did not include significant advancements in how the production was carried out across national borders. Instead the production processes remained fragmented and split, with no significant efforts made to improve the collaboration among the factories. This is a significant problem and the company is being destroyed by a lack of corporate collaboration. Former CEO of Airbus, Christian Streiff, admitted that Airbus was a “juxtaposition of four companies.”

Faced with few alternatives, Airbus announced a massive restructuring plan designed to fix management and production problems, but also help with losses associated with other problems such as the weakness of the US dollar. Termed Power8, the plan hopes to increase profits in spite of the company’s projected losses for the year 2007 due to the costs associated with the program and the A380 disaster.

For years, Airbus was considered an innovator and technology leader. But in a short period of time the company went from darling of the industry to pariah. Airbus S.A.S. can learn from its mistakes and regain its title as a leader in the field. But significant challenges must be overcome. The company has been working on improving how its different national groups collaborate with one another. Ensuring that Airbus operates as a unified concern, where the sharing of knowledge and best practices across borders is the norm rather than the exception, however, is a battle still to be fought, and the outcome is far from certain.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

How Airbus Lost €4.8 Billion: A Cautionary Tale of What Happens When Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration Strategies Fail

Friday, December 7th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

With the release this week of our report  Airbus Hits Turbulence: How Knowledge Sharing Failures Cost Airbus €4.8 Billion,  we are presenting the report’s executive study in two parts.  It will conclude in next week’s edition of Basex:TechWatch and here in the blog.

In the coming decade, as companies move from the industrial age into the knowledge economy, more and more organizations will find that the cost of not knowing how to manage knowledge work and knowledge workers will have a significant impact on the bottom line.

What is the cost of failing to share knowledge? For years, pundits have suggested that there is a hard currency cost to organizations when there is a knowledge sharing failure, but it was virtually impossible to come up with a hard figure.

Today we have that number.

Airbus has provided us with a clear-cut example of a company’s failure to implement proper knowledge sharing and collaboration tools and techniques costing them dearly.  Moreover, this failure severely impacted the company’s bottom line, enough to threaten its very existence.

The figure: €4.8 billion or $7 billion.

In October 2006, Airbus’ former CEO, Christian Streiff, announced that the production of their highly awaited A380 would be delayed another year, pushing the jumbo jet’s production two years beyond its original schedule.  Airbus has already announced to the financial community that this delay will cost €4.8 billion in lost profit over the next four years. The consequence of ignoring the inherent friction in their knowledge sharing and collaboration processes could be fatal for Airbus, especially in conjunction with the problem of a weakening dollar.

With significant orders from some of the largest names in the airline industry, including Emirates, Virgin and Lufthansa before A380 production delays set in, Airbus seemed well on its way to establishing itself as the leader in the wide-body jet market. But Airbus’ lack of foresight in project management led to significant multinational knowledge sharing and collaboration failures.

But that impression was illusory at best.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.


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