Skip navigation

Information, Technology and Information Worker Productivity

Authors: Aral, Sinan
Brynjolfsson, Erik
Van Alstyne, Marshall
Keywords: Social Networks;Productivity;Information Worker;IT;Multitasking;Production Function
Issue Date: 10-Nov-2008
Series/Report no.: CeDER-PP-2006-10
Abstract: We study the fine-grained relationships among information flows, IT use, and individual information-worker productivity, by analyzing work at a midsize executive recruiting firm. We analyze both project-level and individual-level performance using: (1) direct observation of over 125,000 e-mail messages over a period of 10 months by individual workers (2) detailed accounting data on revenues, compensation, project completion rates, and team membership for over 1300 projects spanning 5 years, and (3) survey data on a matched set of the same workers’ IT skills, IT use and information sharing. These detailed data permit us to econometrically evaluate a multistage model of production and interaction activities at the firm, and to analyze the relationships among communications flows, key technologies, work practices, and output. We find that (a) the structure and size of workers’ communication networks are highly correlated with their performance; (b) IT use is strongly correlated with productivity but mainly by allowing multitasking rather than by speeding up work; (c) productivity is greatest for small amounts of multitasking but beyond an optimum, multitasking is associated with declining project completion rates and revenue generation; and (d) asynchronous information seeking such as email and database use promotes multitasking while synchronous information seeking over the phone shows a negative correlation. Overall, these data show statistically significant relationships among social networks, technology use, completed projects, and revenues for project-based information workers. Results are consistent with simple production models of queuing and multitasking and these methods can be replicated in other settings, suggesting new frontiers for bridging the research on social networks and IT value.
Appears in Collections:CeDER Published Papers

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
CPP-10-06.pdf363.55 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

Items in FDA are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.