and Information Services
How Decision Makers Value Information
Accurate, timely, and relevant information saves transportation agencies both
time and money through increased efficiency, improved productivity, and rapid
deployment of innovations. For example, access to research results allows agencies
to benefit from the experiences of others and avoids costly duplication of effort.
While the benefits are substantial, they are difficult to quantify and the value
of information goes unrecognized. An extensive literature review and interviews
with State DOTs, private companies, and transportation libraries reveal that
access to information yields both time and cost savings by improving decision
making, expediting solutions, and avoiding unnecessary research. The benefits
of information and information services are summarized below. For a more detailed
discussion of the literature review and interviews conducted for this report,
see Appendices A and B.
Good Information Reduces Costs
Reducing costs is a primary concern for transportation agencies. A number of
studies and experts consulted for this report cited the following cost savings
resulting from access to information:
- New York State DOT (NYDOT) estimates life-cycle cost savings of nearly $9
million per year resulting from a new concrete mix for bridge decks that was
developed as the result of a literature search. The new mix was implemented
by NYDOT in less than a year.
- Illinois DOT saved approximately $300,000 through access to research at
Louisiana State University on heat-strengthening of steel bridges.
- For New York, an innovative horizontal drain system discovered at a TRB
conference not only solved a landslide problem, but also yielded net savings
of more than $2.5 million over conventional stabilization treatments.
- In the private sector, Texas Instruments calculated a 515 percent return
on its investment in library services.
- A subsidiary of another major U.S. manufacturer found that the information
produced by a series of literature searches performed by its corporate library
was worth about $400,000-- and cost the company just $17,000.
- According to Griffiths and King (1993), firms without libraries spend 2
to 4 times more to acquire information than those with in-house libraries.
Obtaining information through the use of alternative sources costs 2.3 times
as much as acquiring the same information through an in-house library.
- Table 1 shows benefit-cost ratios for in-house information services range
from 16 to 1 (Georgia Technical Institute) to 3 to 1 (Paccar, Inc.).
Information Saves Time
Quality information saves time in numerous ways--by avoiding duplicative efforts,
stopping unproductive activities, modifying design approaches, or correcting
- Griffiths and King surveyed more than 27,000 professionals over an 11-year
period on their use of information. Table 2 shows the percentage of journal
articles, books, and internal reports to which the survey respondents attributed
|Table 2. Information Sources and Time Savings
||% Yielding Time Savings
- For North Carolina DOT, knowing what other States have done, and how these
methods or results fit into its own research plan, is an invaluable time-saver.
Experts there report that the time gap between initiation of a research project
and its inclusion in an information database can be costly to other research
efforts; they urge a concentrated effort to expedite the reporting of research
- An in-house librarian at Paccar, Inc., joined a task force to reduce the
turnaround time for findings from a vehicle test track. The test results,
with digitized photographs, were made available on the corporate Intranet
within 1 to 6 days instead of the usual 1 to 6 months. The speedier access
to the test track data significantly reduced the engineering design cycle.
- Another corporate library reduced from 10 days to just 1 day the process
of computing cost and labor rates for proposals by developing an on-line,
in-house capability to perform functions formerly provided by an outside contractor.
- Parsons-Brinckerhoff saves time for managers and staff with its knowledge
sharing network. This network has been successful in building the corporate
knowledge base and in filling short-term vacancies for specialized personnel.
|Table 1. Benefit-Cost Ratios for Information Services
|Georgia Technical Institute
||16 to 1
|Exxon [See Koenig, 1992.]
||11 to 1
||9-10 to 1
|NASA [ Ibid.]
||7.6 to 1
||3 to 1
Information Improves Decision Making
Within the highly decentralized transportation community, knowing what other
organizations have done or how they have confronted similar challenges is invaluable
when making technical or policy decisions:
- Marshall's 1993 survey of banking managers documents the value of information
in the decision-making process. Eighty-four percent of the 299 managers surveyed
felt that the information provided by their company's information service
contributed to better decisions. More than half said that the information
led them to handle some aspect of an assignment differently. In cases where
a decision involved a financial transaction, 74 percent estimated the value
of the decision at more than $1 million.
- Respondents to Griffiths and King's survey measured the impact of information
on work quality. Table 3 shows (from 1=low to 7=high) how respondents rated
the quality of their work both with and without specific types of information.
|Table 3. Information and Quality of Work (Scale of 1 to 7)
Information Yields Customer Satisfaction
Although many organizations cannot quantify the value of information or information
services, the perceived value among users is high. Users discuss value in terms
of whether, and to what extent, the information provided meets their expectations
and needs. For example:
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- Texas Instruments' library in Houston reported that 81 percent of the users
sampled felt that the library's services had a positive impact on their jobs.
- Virginia's Transportation Research Council yielded an overall rating from
its customers of 4 on a 1-to-5 scale.
- In Matarazzo and Prusak's 1995 survey, 75 percent of senior managers thought
that their libraries contributed to their organization's strategic goals by
providing valuable information. Information obtained from electronic databases
and reference services were most valued.
Electronic version of Publication No.
This page last updated August 18, 1999
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