Two global banks, comparable in many ways, differ in their business performance. The more successful bank is more effective in its use of information. A coincidence? Not likely. Companies, such as these banks, are still struggling to understand how to put information to work so that it improves business performance. Two information-based management disciplines — the information-technology field and the information-management field, which involve librarians, records managers and Web-site content managers — have put more emphasis on creating systems and processes to store or classify information than on improving the way people behave with information. After spending billions of dollars on information technology, it’s still difficult for senior executives to connect their company’s technology investments to its business performance. More often than not, this technology-centered viewpoint has not encouraged more people-centered management activities aimed at improving behaviors and values for more effective information use. If there is a starting point for improving how businesses use information, it’s in a perception many senior managers share: Companies must do more than excel at investing in and deploying IT. They must combine those capabilities with excellence in collecting, organizing and maintaining information, and with getting their people to embrace the right behaviors and values for working with information. Is this notion right? How does the interaction of people, information and technology affect business performance? These questions led a team of 10 researchers and staff from the International Institute for Management Development, sponsored by Andersen Consulting, to conduct a 2-1/2–year international research effort to understand how senior managers perceive the relationship between business performance and three information capabilities — IT, information management, and people’s behaviors and values pertaining to the use of information. We studied 1009 senior managers — nearly 60% of whom were CEOs, executive and senior vice presidents and general managers/directors — from 98 companies operating in 22 countries and 25 industries (see “Research Methods”).
This article was based on the findings of the international research study, “Navigating Business Success,” conducted by the International Institute for Management Development and sponsored by Andersen Consulting, from September 1997 through December 1999. The authors wish to thank Katarina Paddack, research associate, for a major contribution to this article, along with Joyce P. Marchand, project manager; Andreas Wildberger, research associate; Professor Albert H. Segars, University of North Carolina; and Professor Choong C. Lee, Salisbury State University.