To keep pace with today’s global marketplace, businesses, suppliers and customers are forced to consume truly staggering amounts of data. Managing the ever-growing speed at which data is created is becoming more difficult, as well: according to IDC , the world’s volume of data doubles every 18 months.

Before we are all washed away in this flood of data, it may be time to re-examine the channels we rely upon for collaboration and communication. We recently conducted a survey of over 500 C-level executives across the globe, asking specifically about the challenges of dealing with this deluge of data. The results show that one in three executives is regularly unable to find the right information they need in the timeframe they need it.

This dislocation has real consequences – a notion that is further backed by a BT Global Service industry report, which references that during the last recession, more than one-quarter of executives have lost business because they couldn’t access the right information.

It is clear that making information both understandable and readily accessible is essential to enhancing business processes, despite the fact that executives report this overwhelming onslaught of data is having a negative impact on IT infrastructure.

Regardless, the need for information is still there: workers continue to ask for larger volumes of data delivered more efficiently. According to our survey, nearly a third of UK executives (29 per cent) believe access to more sources of data would enable them to do their job better, and 55 per cent want that access faster than they have it today.

In addition to more traditional data sources, social networking is adding to the onslaught of information. 42 per cent of UK respondents reported that they relied on instant messaging (IM), while just over a quarter (26 per cent) reported the use social networks like Facebook or an equivalent for business purposes.

While these are certainly useful, popular and increasingly ubiquitous tools, the management and oversight of their use in the enterprise present a new set of headaches for the CIO. Despite executives receiving more information than they can productively handle, these is still a need for speed.

We crave more information, faster and through more channels. According to our Big Data research, executives’ first concern is the ability to keep up with customer service expectations. Respondents to our survey overwhelmingly reported that the customer is king – maintaining relationships and producing accurate, rapid sales information is critical to the success of their business.

The problem lies in quenching this urgent thirst for collaboration without opening the floodgates to more information than employees can effectively use. We routinely advise our clients to take inspiration from a newer generation of information multitaskers who have learned to receive the data they require from several different sources, sometimes simultaneously.

Whether via team microsites, IM, or mashup databases, CIOs should be looking to internally adopt creative technology solutions which help turn big data to big information. Managed environments that keep people and processes centralised and controlled while providing contextual and business-relevant content can help prevent information overload.

Applying a few simple steps can mean the difference between overwhelming your users with a data flood and supporting them with an effective data lifecycle.

By identifying data sources, filtering and contextualising information, distributing it to the appropriate constituents, locations and business units, and finally applying it to innovative business solutions, CIOs can help us break down the flood of the data we receive into a more focused and effective series of on-demand “sips” – whether it’s via email, IM or elsewhere.

The newest tools enable employees of a dispersed workforce (which in many cases is global in nature) to find the right person, with the right data, at the right time. This is essential to closing the gap between data overload and highly-tuned productivity. When it comes to data, less is definitely not more, and more is not always better.

But, CIOs and IT departments must act quickly to control effective data distribution and ultimately avoid being swept away in the deluge.

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