Federal employees waste as much as a month of work time each year searching for information their agencies already own, according to a survey released this week.
And that's not the only bad news. Government filing procedures and training aren't adequate either, and improving them isn't a high priority for agencies, according to the survey conducted by MeriTalk, a government IT information hub.
The average fed surveyed conducts five searches a day not knowing where or whether the information
they are looking for is available in the agency's database. One out of
four times they don't find the information they're looking for at
all. These findings only add ammunition to the frequent criticism that the government's right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Or perhaps more aptly, where the left hand could be found.
MeriTalk conducted the survey of 300
federal employees in July, with backing from DLT Solutions and Google. Called
"Uncle Sam's Lost and Found: $15.4 billion" the study revealed
that employees whose jobs required them to search agency databases estimate they lose an hour of work every day due to inefficiencies in the
systems. Based on the average yearly salary of a full-time federal employee
and the number of days worked, that translates to $15.4 billion in tax dollars lost on workers desperately seeking Susan.
Other topics the survey results touch on:
• Hidden Resources — 44%
of the employees said that not knowing what information was available
on the database was a big problem.
• Fruitless Searches — 25%
of searches produced no fruit.
• Poor Cataloging — Indicating
that human nature is the same no matter where you work, the majority
of federal employees interviewed think their ability to catalog files
is fine but about half think their co-workers aren't so good
• Lack of Training — 46%
said that there was very little training on how to search agency databases. (Or, maybe there is training, but people just can't find it?)
• Lack of Standardization — Respondents indicated that search tools vary even within single
agencies and can be anything from commercial tools to in-house solutions.
The problems become even worse when
staff try to work from remote locations. Only 5% said searching was
easier when working from outside the office, while 42% said it was even more difficult to find information.
Considering the effectiveness of commercial technology in this arena
it seems obvious that the feds need to upgrade.
Despite the problems and wasted tax
dollars inherent in the inefficient search tools, most survey respondents
indicated that the issue was not high on many action lists. Although
22% weren't sure how their agencies were prioritizing search engine
upgrades another 27% were sure it was not a priority. Just one in
four respondents said their agency had actually improved file
management during the past 12 months. Ouch.
As government expands
and even more paperwork is generated, it becomes even more important
that proper file management practices are in place, and that government
employees are trained to retrieve this info. Gov 2.0 can't succeed
without this critical piece.
"Federal agencies can go a long way
toward closing the productivity gap by taking a few simple steps,"
said Jim Helou, vice president of DLT Solutions. "First, prioritize
file search efficiency and standardize search approaches. Next,
develop interagency guidelines for filing and saving Federal documents
-- and focus on training. These quick turn initiatives will have an
immediate and sustained impact on Federal employee productivity and