Dealing with Information Overload in Business Analysis

It’s interesting to think about how business research and analysis has changed over time.  As recently as the 80′s, analyses were done with slide rules and presentations were done with stencils.  Office applications have of course changed all that, of course.  The amount of data and analysis available has increased dramatically too. Everyone has search engines, market research reports, investor filings, blog posts, and all manner of information at their fingertips much more than in the past. But somehow research is still often a maddening process.  Now there’s too much data, and many times sifting through it is now the real challenge.  Most information sources are poorly organized, and there’s a great deal of inaccurate or redundant data out there as well.  At the same time, everyone’s expectations for work products have risen.

Of course, there are plenty of tools out there that aim to cure these headaches.  Tools like Google are amazing, but they cause problems of their own.  We’ve all become habituated to going straight to search engines for answers, although they’re often not a good first resort.  More generally, the seemingly limitless availability of information has lead us to spend too much time searching for those elusive facts that will make or break our work.  Often, that time could be better spent analyzing the information and communicating it more clearly.  In the past, scarcity of information at least constrained business analysis to be simple and sometimes even elegant.  Now that constraint must be replaced by discipline on the part of the analyst.  Finally, search engines are in a constant race to maintain relevance, and often a variety of less relevant or redundant results end up ranking highly.

Since I’ve spent so much time and effort learning the ins and outs of business research, I’ll be sharing some of my experience and perspectives on how to do it effectively on this blog.  I’m also hoping to get other people’s perspectives in the comments.  I’ll also be examining various information sources, research tools, and best practices that are useful.  I’ll touch on some related topics like structuring business analysis appropriately.  Finally, since I’m working on developing better research tools for business users, I’ll be making announcements on new features as they come out.

If this sounds relevant to you, I’d be interested in your thoughts.  What research-related topics do you want to read about?

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