A major piece of research by consulting and outsourcing specialists Capgemini has identified that poor information management is hampering major companies and public sector bodies. Experts in information management TFPL back the findings and see increased demand for information skills.

The Information Opportunity report focused on all business information, Ramesh Harji, Head of Information Exploitation at Capgemini told CIO Online that those working as CIOs don’t differentiate between structured and unstructured information, therefore the report follows the same lines.

CIOs and business leaders in the FTSE 350 were interviewed, as well as their peers in the public sector. Harji said they have discovered that the information culture is broken. He also revealed that the survey was carried out before the slew of poor public sector information stories broke at the tail end of 2007. “Looking back, the symptoms are the same in the report as those demonstrated by HMRC,” he said.

The report found that poor information management was leading to bad decision making, fragmented views of the truth and information islands, 63 per cent of survey respondents said they made critical business decisions without the correct information on a daily basis. With information levels increasing, 36 per cent said information levels had doubled in the last five years and that by not sharing information organisations were suffering a financial loss. It was also discovered that the hallowed single version of the truth did not exist in the organisations of 46 per cent of those surveyed.

Although admitting to these problems, 80 percent said that information “was a critical driver or determinant of business performance”. Business performance would be improved with good information management, according to 29 per cent of the survey group in the commercial sector, and 24 per cent in the public sector. Capgemini believes poor use of information equates to £46bn in missed opportunities for businesses and £21bn in admin costs in the public sector. “Executives freely admit failings in their organisational information culture,” Harji said.

CIOs are well placed to change this cultural issue. “Leaders need to exhibit the behaviour first. It is up to CIOs to create an information culture,” he said. Not only must CIOs improve information management to prevent disasters like HMRC occurring again, but also to benefit the organisation’s bottom line. “Information increases in value the more it is used.”

Melanie Goody, director of consulting for information management specialists TFPL said the problem has occurred because, “In a lot of organisations IT has had a greater spending power, they have more clout, than a knowledge or information team.” Harji said workers of all levels need CIOs to give them information skills to do their jobs better.

“There is no point giving people data if they can’t interpret it,” he said. Skills training was identified by Capgemini as one of three key areas of information management that needed to become a CIO focus, along with treating information as a corporate asset and leadership.

Many vendors of information management tools like enterprise content management (ECM) systems have claimed to offer the answer to information issues, but this report and the recent spate of errors show there is still a long way to go. “We now have a lot of packaged technology, which is often an industry standard package, but it doesn’t offer value to an organisation if everyone uses the same package,” Harji said. “There has been too much focus on implementation, not on what will they do with the information.”

Attitudes amongst vendors and some CIOs are changing, Goody said, her organisation, which has offices in London and Scotland is becoming involved in technology and information management implementations via CIOs and vendors.