2019 Policy Insider's Report

Policy Insider's Report: Chapter Two

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Policy Professionals' Struggle to Manage Information Overload

Heightened corporate interest in politics and policy means policy professionals need to keep pace with more issues than ever before, and the pace of the news cycle, the rise of social media, and dispersion of information sources are making that job especially hard. More than half of policy professionals say information overload is among their top three challenges this year, and many say it is almost impossible to find time to process and synthesize information coming from numerous disparate sources.

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Fueling the fire of information overload for policy pros is the dispersion of policymaking. Amid partisanship at the national level, issues which would have at one time been decided by Congress are now fragmented among the local, state, and international legislatures. Data privacy is a prime example of the many fronts that policy pros need to monitor for change: The European Union (EU) has become an international standard-setter, California is taking a disruptive stance and local governments are attempting to effect changes of their own. With policy arising from so many locales, it’s impossible for policy professionals to stay ahead of every twist and turn, and many say surprise has become standard.

With these growing demands on their attention and time, many policy professionals are turning to policy intelligence tools— like legislative and regulatory tracking and directories of government stakeholders— to work more efficiently. Most policy professionals say these tools are useful for helping them find and organize all policy information relevant to a policy issue in a single place. While many policy intelligence tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with features for building reports and creating visualizations, these features have not yet gained widespread adoption. Phone calls, emails, and memos remain the standard means of communication for most policy experts on the move.

Since this overload of ever-changing information shows no signs of slowing, some policy leaders are experimenting with their team structures and information management systems in an effort to keep up. For example, some leaders have restructured their teams to focus on issues rather than geographic jurisdictions, allowing their team members to become subject matter experts on a smaller set of key policy areas. Others in corporate settings have established clearly-defined decision trees to triage the policy issues that need a response, helping narrow their focus to the areas that are most important to their firms’ bottom lines.

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