Drinking from a Fire Hose: Controlling the Flow of Information in Your Business

By Bill Constantopoulos

Information is the lifeblood of any successful organization. But too much of a good thing can negatively impact performance. “Information overload” is a challenge for organizations and those tasked with managing them. Some have even compared the flow of data to “drinking from a fire hose.”

Too much data, crammed into too little time, affects both business operations and the health of managers subjected to the deluge of information. A British research study found that 35% of business leaders feel that having to keep up with today’s increased flow of information leaves them feeling stressed, and 65% say their work is negatively impacted by the overwhelming amount of data they have to process at work.

The excessive amount of data managers must process is caused in large part by irrelevant information. People who are forced to spend time sifting through reams of data to find what they need are not working efficiently, can quickly grow frustrated, and are more likely to overlook important information.

The solution to reducing information overload is distributing the right information to the right people at the right time. This can be achieved by implementing the appropriate technology in the workplace. The emergence of new technology has enabled organizations to better streamline the flow of information among management, delivering relevant data in a timely manner, thus reducing information overload.

Nowhere is the need for controlling the flow of information more critical than in an organization’s financial management function. Strategic and tactical decisions are being made every day based on financial data that must be accurate and up-to-date.

Fortunately, financial management software platforms have advanced to the point where extracting the necessary data can be done quickly – in many cases, in real-time. Every business has key performance indicators (KPIs), some of which are time sensitive and others whose tracking can be delayed. By establishing a data hierarchy, you can begin to filter and redirect the flow of information to where it is most needed and will do the most good for your organization.

For example, working with the Sage Intacct ERP platform we have been able to customize key KPI reporting for clients. Clients can choose which statistics are most important to track, how often they need to be monitored, and who needs to see them. This customization channels the flow of information to where it is needed, filtering out superfluous or unnecessary data and reducing information overload. 

Being able to control who sees which data has the added benefit of conforming with current cybersecurity best practices. The “principle of least privilege” calls for individuals to have access only to information required for them to do their job. Limiting who has access to potentially sensitive data reduces the potential for cyber intruders to break through established defenses.

Information overload is not limited to C-level management. It can impact employees at every level of an organization, often to the detriment of their job performance. This problem grows as a business expands and more people need access to critical data. Having the right tool to manage the flow of information can result in a more effective workforce, and a clear look at the data you need to make the best decisions for your business.

Bill Constantopoulos leads the Sage Intacct & Advisory Practice Group at Gray, Gray & Gray, LLP, a business consulting and accounting firm that serves a wide range of industries. He can be reached at (781) 407-0300 or powerofmore@gggllp.com

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