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The cost of not finding information

It’s a common scenario for remote and hybrid workers. You open your laptop and want to find the presentation that Alex from the growth team put together last week. She cited impressive user acquisition figures that would be useful to share with the founders. 

But where are the slides?

You find yourself jumping between Asana, Dropbox, Google Drive… or was it just attached to an email? Now you have twenty tabs open on your browser, the clock is ticking towards the meeting, and you’re no closer to pinning down those elusive decks.

Sounds familiar? You’re not alone. Nearly 70% of workers we spoke to in our study said that they spend too much time searching for information and 54% of respondents said that applications  themselves were the culprit in making it hard to find information. 

So with all the productivity tools in our arsenal what is causing this "un-productivity", and is there a better solution?

How searching for files is harder for remote team collaboration

As remote working has become the norm for more and more companies, there’s an increasing reliance on a variety of work management software apps to keep track of different aspects of business operations—Slack, Asana, JIRA, Confluence, Notion, Coda, Airtable... and more. Unsurprisingly, 57% of employees are not certain that all departments use the same online tools and communication platforms. 

Blissfully’s 2020 annual report found that not only app usage but also the number of different apps being used by businesses rose 30% between 2018 and 2019.

The result of this explosion is that information created by team members is stored in a variety of online locations and repositories. You’ll find that different teams use the tools that are most relevant for their work, and then their files may stay locked away in these apps. We also know people often end up doing things their own way: 63% reported that they don’t always use the recommended tools.

For example, engineers and developers might be using GitHub for their programming tasks, while your copywriters use Google Drive to store their drafts. As a team lead, you need to follow both—and each team might need to access each other’s work. 

Things get even more complicated with cross-functional team collaboration, where a single project involves multiple teams and tools. Project milestones might be managed through a tool like Asana, but the actual files and documents may be spread across different apps. Workplace search is messier than ever before.


Why multiple information sources make life difficult for teams

As a result of this plethora of tools, information gets scattered everywhere and it becomes a pain to retrieve. And the silo effect comes into play, whereby each team has its own restricted environment, hindering communication across the organization. This leads to concerns in 49% of people that important information is getting lost in this document management whirlwind. 

Finding files becomes a game of “how many tabs can I keep open before my browser crashes?” Your team has to dig into different cloud storage folders, emails, and project notes to find what they need, which snatches bandwidth from tasks that matter. In our research, 43% of people reported spending too much time switching between different online tools.

And if you do know where a file is located, you’re still at the mercy of inconsistent search engines that work in different ways—Notion, Slack, and Google Drive search, for example. These tools can leave you dredging through hundreds of irrelevant search results. Your time is worth so much more than than this. Getting stuck in patterns of inefficient document management comes at the cost of productivity and focus. 

What is the real cost of searching for lost files?

With the average medium-sized company paying out $20,000 per month on SaaS subscriptions, these tools should be allowing you to make your business more efficient. But when you have to dig through multiple tools to find your files, more costs emerge:

  1. Time: Your colleagues are spending hours digging through folders when they could be building features, formulating data insights, or connecting with customers. In a typical day, people spend 59 minutes simply looking for information trapped within tools and applications. That’s up to 5 hours every working week. 

  2. Focus: Nobody enjoys searching for files. It’s admin work, and it’s frustrating. Negative energy directly impacts your team’s productivity, morale, and culture. Imagine having to ask—or be asked by—your colleague for the third time for that file? 

  3. Resources: There’s a real monetary cost, especially when lost files result in duplication of efforts. The original cost is written off, and you add more costs by creating the document again. 

We put together a quick sheet model to illustrate the true cost of not finding information. Using the average time an employee spends searching for files, resources and links at work, and given an average salary per employee of $80,000 in a company of 500 people, we estimated it could cost around $694,444 per year! That's some very expensive digging. 

When you don’t have a central hub or shared cross-team workspace, this duplication of effort is more likely. For example, a copywriter and performance marketer may both need to create a tone of voice guide. But with so many repositories and no ability to search across all of them, they might end up doing duplicate work—especially if they’re not in contact or one has left the organization.

Finally, disparate information can lead to missed opportunities for growth. If all your data is available in one workspace, it’s easier to spot ways to move the needle. Knowledge is power, and by having access to customer service tickets, web analytics, and platform data in one dashboard, you can spearhead growth for the business.

What’s the solution to the file searching problem?

Back in 2003, a few years before the boom in SaaS apps, David Gilmour was reflecting on knowledge management in the Harvard Business Review. He said: 

“Technology should not flood people with information or take it from them; instead, it should identify connections that are valuable to the people that are being connected.”

At Qatalog, we’re building these connections for you—to cut through the chaos of different tools and bring them together into one manageable, easily-searchable space. We call it the Work Hub, and we want it to be the productivity and collaboration space for modern teams. 

Our platform provides more than a team collaboration toolkit: a shared online hub where all your productivity apps are integrated and where finding files across all of them is quick and easy. 

You can read more about how workplace search tools match up to a Work Hub or give Qatalog a try and see for yourself.  

Matteo enjoys reading psychology books, practicing meditation, or planning his next year-long trip to Asia.
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