My idea of productivity begins at the point where all of our corporate information and knowledge is put to use to help make decisions - every time.
I was discussing information productivity to a person who was interviewing for a job when the appropriate metaphor hit me. Most CFOs and CEOs are interested in receiving the maximum return for their shareholders from their corporate assets. Shareholder value is a driving force for senior management, and shareholder value is increased as the share price increases.
Share prices increase as the value of the goods and services produced grows faster than the cost to produce them. This means that a firm has to constantly improve its revenue stream, cut costs or get more from its existing assets. In my experience, CFOs are usually very good at finding and eliminating assets that do not perform, and investing and nurturing assets that are high performing. What does this say about how assets like knowledge assets and information are used?
Most firms generate copious amounts of data and have a tremendous amount of corporate knowledge. Yet, one of the most common complaints about information technology is the fact that while we have lots of data, we have very little actionable information. If information is important and a key asset to your business, why do we allow it to underperform? Why don't we squeeze every drop of value from our data and our corporate knowledge? Why is it OK for it to be "hard" to analyze and report on the data in our systems?
It seems to me that the first order of business for any CFO would be to crack open the nut that is his or her data and corporate knowledge and find a way to make those assets return more value. These assets have to be some of the most valuable, and most poorly utilized assets in any business. Put it another way - if I am a textile manufacturer, my looms run 98% of the time. If I own a metal stamping business, my stamping machines run almost constantly. In both cases I try to wring as much value as possible from those (admittedly) tangible assets. Yet we often throw up our hands or shrug our shoulders when it comes to getting more value from our data! Data and corporate knowledge IS a corporate asset, and we should be mining that asset for all it's worth.