by Meridith Levinson

Inaccurate Information Gleaned from the Web Costs IT Departments Time and Money

May 29, 20083 mins
IT Skills

A survey commissioned by Safari Books Online finds that IT professionals spend as much as two hours each workday searching the web for information they need to do their jobs. Unfortunately, the information they get isn't always accurate and leads to costly, embarrassing and time-consuming mistakes.

CIOs who are considering cutting their IT departments’ training budgets in an effort to keep IT costs under control in a weak economy may want to think twice. IT professionals report that they need access to good training and reliable online content to do their jobs efficiently and to prevent costly, embarrassing mistakes, according to the results of a survey of 225 technology professionals’ research habits that were released yesterday.

The survey was conducted by online survey provider Zoomerang in April on behalf of Safari Books Online, a web-based digital library geared toward technology professionals, so its sponsor is an interested party to the results. The survey found that 85 percent of respondents spend up to two hours each day searching the web for information that they need to do their jobs. They spend that time looking for code samples, product reviews and answers to specific questions about trouble shooting applications, project management and technology integration from accurate, reliable sources. Forty percent of respondents conduct these kinds of searches two to three times each work day.

In spite of the time and effort respondents put into finding reliable content on the web, the odds that the information they obtain will be accurate are not good. Forty-five percent of respondents say they used information they gleaned from the web that they later found was incorrect. Though the survey didn’t ask respondents to identify their information sources (whether good or bad), it did ask how they determine whether online content is trustworthy. Nearly 32 percent said they identified dependable information based on the publisher or content owner (32 percent), whether it had been reviewed by peers (16 percent), or whether they found it in an online peer forum (15 percent) or periodical they trust (15 percent.)

The consequences of using inaccurate information are serious. Nearly 15 percent of respondents reported that a component of the IT network didn’t function properly as a result. Respondents also reported complaints from internal and external customers to management (three percent), bugs that were introduced to software (15 percent), projects that didn’t get completed (five percent) as well as increased project costs, time wasted on trying to make the wrong answers work, and workers having to completely re-do projects.

To prevent mistakes, 65 percent of respondents say they would like their employers to offer them access to expert information specific to their roles and responsibilities. Few respondents, it seems, felt they have access to the training and education they need to maximize their productivity. Only 11 percent of respondents say their employers provide them with access to digital libraries and databases of information. Just thirteen percent can sign up for online courses. One-fifth get reimbursed for college courses. Not quite 25 percent of respondents’ employers offer formal in-house training classes. Eighteen percent indicate that their companies don’t offer any professional development opportunities.

The subtext of all these findings is, of course, that a subscription to Safari Books Online will give tech workers access to the trusted information they need to do their jobs and avoid project overruns, buggy software and irate customers.

But to be fair, the findings provide IT executives with important insights about the resources IT professionals require on a daily basis to do their jobs that they don’t always get. As CIOs under budget pressure consider cutting training and education for their IT staffs, they should first determine if they should be allocating those resources differently. They may find that they can get a bigger bang for their buck by providing their IT professionals with trusted, targeted technical information that will help them solve day to day problems more quickly.