21/11/2023 |

How to optimize information flows in the company

Information is supposedly the most important commodity of our time. With the prevailing overload of information, it has recently become important to manage and filter it in a targeted manner - especially for companies. In this article, we explain why accurate information flows are so immensely important and how they can be optimized.

How to optimize information flows in the company

Information is supposedly the most important commodity of our time. With the prevailing overload of information, it has recently become important to manage and filter it in a targeted manner – especially for companies. In this article, we explain why accurate information flows are so immensely important and how they can be optimized.

What is an information flow?

First of all, we need to clarify what exactly the term information flow means.

Definition: Information flow

Basically, information flow (in IT: data flow) refers to the paths that all information takes in an organization. The format in which information is passed on and the sender-receiver relationships play a central role. In an ideal flow, information is exchanged without loss, delays or misunderstandings.

Information carriers trigger the flow of information. This includes formats such as e-mails and processes (interactions).

Data vs. information

We often talk about information and data in parallel. However, there are a few key differences to note. Information refers to facts and knowledge.

Data, on the other hand, are details of facts. Data are values that are used to represent information. Data by itself is only a sign or a number. When data is collected and acquires semantics, it ultimately becomes information.

The term information is therefore broader than the term data. While business strategy is mostly concerned with information, IT is mainly concerned with data.

How does an information flow work?

The ideal is as follows: Information would get from A to B quickly and without loss. Information logistics can be compared to that of a material. It must reach its destination without being damaged and within the allotted time. If a sender has a relevant message ready, it should reach the intended recipient unambiguously, comprehensibly, clearly and in an up-to-date way. The transmission system used must be fast and reliable.

In practice, however, this is often not the case:


… gets lost.

… is withheld.

… arrives distorted.

… loses context.

… reaches the recipient too late.

… is not understood.

A good flow of information such that information reaches the right recipient immediately and unaltered requires the right systems. Software support is used to clearly structure and organize information.

Information systems lead to business impacts

Information takes very different routes in companies. Here are some of the channels through which it is usually transmitted:

  • verbal conversations
  • meetings
  • emails and letters
  • chats, collaboration tools and messenger services
  • ticket systems

Negative example 1: Falsified information

An example of an information flow could be a manager considering the use of a new tool. She passes this information on to her team by email, who then discuss it via the internal messaging service. In individual rounds of communication, details are repeatedly distorted, so that a meeting is ultimately required to synchronize and clarify the information.

Negative example 2: Diffused transmission

In another example, colleagues discuss a new task verbally. However, there is the difficulty that not all team members are present at the same time. Some are distracted because they are working on other tasks at the same time. In the end, no one knows who has exactly what information and how much. In addition, some team members have misunderstood the task.

Information flow versus information management

Closely related to the movement of information is its management. Those who manage information coordinate the logistics of doing so, ensuring that it can be found, controlled and mastered.

Metaphorically speaking, information often takes a “natural path”, generally the easiest one just as water might do. With functional management, however, this path is controlled: a dam can stop the flow, detour it or offer analysis as necessary.

Why is an optimal flow of information so important?

Communication is everything – messages must be conveyed in a targeted manner so that they make sense and the recipient understands them correctly. Without adequate communication within the company, much is lost. This means that the right people should receive information at the right time and be able to classify its meaning.

In short: an optimal high-quality flow of information means good business operation.

Positive benefits of well-flowing information

Below are some reasons why your business needs to optimize the flow of information.

  1. Greater efficiency: By getting information quickly and accurately from one source to the next, tasks can be completed more quickly – without unnecessary delays or misunderstandings. The results are generally better.
  2. Better decision-making: The quality of decisions made depends largely on the quality, timeliness and analysis of the information available. A good flow of information therefore enables well-founded decisions to be made.
  3. Better coordination: A good flow of information ensures that everyone involved is on the same page and can act in a coordinated manner. Resources are not wasted.
  4. Higher employee and customer satisfaction: Fast and efficient communication means that customers receive timely answers to their concerns. In turn, employees are better informed and feel valued.
  5. Targeted risk management: Early access to relevant information allows risks to be identified and minimized more quickly. Security efforts improve.
  6. Optimized compliance: An information system is extremely important for adhering to internal guidelines and ensuring legal compliance. With good structures in place, information gets to exactly where it is needed.
  7. Greater transparency: Transparency creates trust and has a positive impact on corporate culture and perception. An optimal flow of information means that customers and employees know exactly what they are dealing with and can be reassured, especially in uncertain times.
  8. Less administrative effort: If information is received correctly by the recipient straight away, hardly any resources are required to clarify and classify it correctly. This saves valuable working time and nerves, so that more can be achieved operationally.

Overall, a good flow of information not only promotes efficiency and clarity, but also allows companies to react appropriately to opportunities and risks. Other positive effects are that they drive innovation better and solve problems more quickly.

Risks of deficient communication

Conversely, a dysfunctional transfer of information harbors a number of risks. For example, the collapse of the mobile phone company Nokia in 2011 showed the far-reaching consequences that inadequate internal cooperation can have. They had not managed to transform the operational processes so that the internal communication failed which had serious consequences.

It doesn’t have to come to that. However, negative effects already occur on a smaller scale: Pronounced silo landscapes in companies are a tried and tested example. Even the loss of information between individual colleagues disrupts processes immensely and prevents efficient work.

The following risks can also be observed:

  1. Knowledge is left lying around: In the information age, knowledge is more power than ever. If this is not collected, stored and passed on clearly, organizations cannot make effective progress.
  2. Misunderstandings occur: If information does not reach the recipient correctly or is incomplete, the recipient misunderstands it. This sometimes leads to teams and organizations taking ineffective measures. At the very least, clarification requires additional effort.
  3. Conflicts arise: Those who do not receive important information are not only less able to work well, but often also feel excluded. Which people receive which information is a sign of hierarchy, togetherness and appreciation. Poor communication is therefore a major source of conflict.
  4. Lack of security: If information flows are not optimal, there is a lack of control. As a result, information sometimes ends up where it does not belong. This can lead to massive security risks.
  5. Customers are lost: Poor communication also makes itself felt exactly where it doesn’t belong – with customers. If their satisfaction drops as a result, in the worst case scenario they will leave.

Important questions about information flows –  a checklist

Here are some questions that can be important in connection with information flows. With the help of these questions, the flow of information can be put into a diagram or model so that it’s clear to everyone which information should move when

General questions

  • Who needs what information and when?
  • Is the required information available?
  • Where can it be found?
  • Is the information clear and unambiguous?
  • Are the documents up to date?

Strategic and contextual questions

  • What is the context of the information? How can it be categorized?
  • Is it possible to store important information centrally and securely?
  • Is there agreement on the use of tools and software solutions for information transfer?
  • Can information flows be documented transparently and reliably?
  • Are there ways to adequately manage existing knowledge?

How can information flows be improved?

Let’s take a closer look at how companies and teams can optimize their information handling and communication.

Tips for better information flows

Here are some helpful approaches for communicating more effectively and organizing information.

Tip #1: Initiate active and clear communication

Communicative guidelines are a good start. However, they are only useful if employees understand them and follow them accordingly. Companies should therefore set a good example and be transparent: they must share relevant information as promptly and in as much detail as possible.

This already provides a good impetus for communicative change, in the course of which information flows can be optimized. The active use of a communication system also helps here. The clearer the information is presented, the better.

Tip #2: Promote transparency

Functional information flows thrive on transparency. This means that openness is crucial and that everyone involved expresses their thoughts clearly. The basic prerequisite for this is a certain degree of psychological security: no one should have to hold back thoughts for fear of possible sanctions.

Instead, an open communication culture makes it possible to identify potential problems and opportunities for improvement at an early stage. The earlier the flow of information begins, the more effective it is.

Tip #3: Practice targeted information management

The success of internal communication depends enormously on organizations managing information and knowledge in a targeted manner. It is essential that employees are not overwhelmed with

too much information that is irrelevant to them. Instead, really important information must be given sufficient attention. In times of “overload”, it is increasingly important to select information according to its importance.

This also means that organizations must prepare information in a structured way and select the channels for dissemination in a targeted manner. Collaboration platforms are ideal for status updates, for example, whereby personnel changes can be communicated by email. A meeting, on the other hand, is an effective platform for information that requires discussion.

Tip #4: Pair information with processes

Companies should diagram their business processes. As they examine these, they have the opportunity to ask questions, like those above, about which information matters at which step in the process. A diagram is used not just for the process steps taken, but also for the information shared. When possible, having a system to automate these business processes ensures that the information is passed along as intended with each step.

Tip #5: Take individual preferences into account

People are different – that’s nothing new. But this also means that they have different communication requirements. For example, while some people keep a constant eye on their email inbox, others are better at absorbing information from calls or meetings.

Sometimes asynchronous (delayed) communication has advantages. In other cases, it is more advisable to share knowledge immediately in a conversation.

In addition, different departments handle information differently – they are subject to specific needs and preferences. Information flows should be adapted accordingly. For example, a common mistake is not taking into account the specific channels that the department in question uses to exchange information.

Why software support is crucial

Generally speaking, if you want to see information flows optimized, you have to make a conscious and persistent effort to make an analysis of the current situation. Then, create a model of how information should flow to each resource so that you’re giving a wild flow (of information) clear direction.

For the modern corporate world, this means that the right system and software solutions should be used. For example, project organization tools and collaboration platforms can greatly facilitate the exchange of information. It is therefore worthwhile for organizations to invest in suitable solutions and train their employees accordingly.

These types of software are available

The following types of software can optimize internal communication and information flows:

  • Communication platforms facilitate the exchange of information by using a centralized platform for communication.
  • Collaboration software improves exchange in companies through messaging and file sharing, among other things. This makes the flow of information much easier, especially in remote environments.
  • Ticket systems make information flows transparent by summarizing request-related information in a ticket. This promotes clear and efficient communication.
  • Task management solutions effectively manage tasks. Related information, like due dates and assignments are clearly and concisely documented.
  • Tools for documentation / knowledge management allow everyone involved – from teammates to customers – to retrieve organized information centrally and clearly.
  • Service management solutions coordinate services and support workflows. For instance, with IT service management, ITIL® (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) processes help organizations to optimize and automate service-related information flows in the best possible way.
  • Meeting management software ensures that well-founded exchange can take place by storing and contextually saving all information relevant to the respective meeting.

Conclusion: structure is crucial for information flows

Organizations need functional information flows in order to survive and be successful. They must make sure that information reaches the right recipient in complete undistorted ways.

This makes it all the more important to have targeted information analysis and diagrams. These make the context and relevance of information clear: Efficient information flows thrive on such an overview and structure.

The right tools and software solutions support businesses in tackling information flow diagrams and resources.  Find out how you can optimize information management in your company with OTRS.


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