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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Information Management and Sobeys, an Informal Case Study for all Organizations

Normally I don't talk about work or the company for whom I work. However, after more than three years of dealing with Sobeys' s systems and processes in the administration department, I have some observations and suggestions that I believe would greatly help the company and employees, and may be vital for all organizations both private and government in the information age.

The Achilles-heel as I see is a lack of basic systems analysis and and the implementation of standard information management techniques and principles. Information is dispersed in parts and usually incomplete, or in a massive information dump. There is little consideration of the end-user, efficiency, clarity, and ease of access.  When one capability is added, often three as useful or necessary are eliminated or barred. Information is often buried with no indication that it even exists. The principal of limiting processes to as few steps as possible is completely ignored, each step increasing potential for errors and reducing efficiency.

Conference calls and PowerPoint are too heavily relied on, and few actual, complete, detailed manuals exist. And even large system-wide changes with many complex factors are done in one big go, often treated as secrets or surprises. Staff need gradual introduction and training to get accustomed to new complexities and built upon each. The concept of phasing things in is never even considered. Thus even relatively slight changes cause major disruptions, are plagued by communication problems, and unforeseen glitches. And lastly, the user is deemed irrelevant, when actually efficiency is greatly improved by ease and intuition of use, as well as clear and easy access to information.

Simple things, like an asterisk on a report or on the record display to indicate a complex price so the file maintenance knows to look for the Loyalty price button on each record to print these signs individually would help greatly. Not to mention reducing this by several steps. I would suggest the hiring of at least one person familiar with the basic concepts of systems analysis, maybe the creation of a team, to go over the company processes and system to eliminate duplication, unnecessary steps, and such. This would create far less disruption for staff and stores and far less stress company-wide.
I'm no expert but I was trained in basic system analysis as part of my Information Management and Library Technology Diploma. The lack of proper information management is easily the thing that drives me most crazy most often. Not that the company is messed-up, it just needs someone with the right training to apply the right ideas to improve the confusion in the communication and system design areas.  Then things will work like a well-oiled machine.

I highly doubt that this situation is unique to one company. After all, who would think that library technicians or librarians (information scientists with masters degrees) have contributions to make to selling groceries, or shoes for that matter? Information is power, its organization, clarity, and flow, vital for business and society. Otherwise its expensive noise drowns morale in frustration.

Efficiency isn't about eliminating jobs, its about making those jobs more effective, impossible to achieve when the tools and systems serve as hindrances.