IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Information, Technology and Information Worker Productivity: Task Level Evidence

  • Sinan Aral
  • Erik Brynjolfsson
  • Marshall Van Alstyne

In an effort to reveal the fine-grained relationships between IT use, patterns of information flows, and individual information-worker productivity, we study task level practices at a midsize executive recruiting firm. We analyze both project-level and individual-level performance using: (1) detailed accounting data on revenues, compensation, project completion rates, and team membership for over 1300 projects spanning 5 years, (2) direct observation of over 125,000 email messages over a period of 10 months by individual workers, and (3) data on a matched set of the same workers' self-reported 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 key technologies, work practices, and output. We find that (a) IT use is positively correlated with non-linear drivers of productivity; (b) the structure and size of workers' communication networks are highly correlated with performance; (c) an inverted-U shaped relationship exists between multitasking and productivity such that, beyond an optimum, more 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 technology use, social networks, completed projects, and revenues for project-based information workers. Results are consistent with simple models of queuing and multitasking and these methods can be replicated in other settings, suggesting new frontiers for IT value and social network research.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13172.

in new window

Date of creation: Jun 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Aral, Sinan and Brynjolfsson, Erik and Van Alstyne, Marshall W., Information, Technology and Information Worker Productivity (September 11, 2011). Information Systems Research, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13172
Note: IO PR
Contact details of provider: Postal:
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-84, December.
  2. Sanjeev Dewan & Kenneth L. Kraemer, 2000. "Information Technology and Productivity: Evidence from Country-Level Data," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(4), pages 548-562, April.
  3. Tridas Mukhopadhyay & Surendra Rajiv & Kannan Srinivasan, 1997. "Information Technology Impact on Process Output and Quality," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(12), pages 1645-1659, December.
  4. Brynjolfsson, Erik. & Hitt, Lorin M., 1995. "Paradox lost? : firm-level evidence on the returns to information systems spending," Working papers 3786-95., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  5. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
  6. Anandhi S. Bharadwaj & Sundar G. Bharadwaj & Benn R. Konsynski, 1999. "Information Technology Effects on Firm Performance as Measured by Tobin's q," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 45(7), pages 1008-1024, July.
  7. Dale W. Jorgenson & Kevin J. Stiroh, 2000. "Raising the Speed Limit: US Economic Growth in the Information Age," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 261, OECD Publishing.
  8. Breusch, T S & Pagan, A R, 1979. "A Simple Test for Heteroscedasticity and Random Coefficient Variation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(5), pages 1287-94, September.
  9. Kenneth J. Arrow, 1962. "The Economic Implications of Learning by Doing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(3), pages 155-173.
  10. Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2000. "Beyond Computation: Information Technology, Organizational Transformation and Business Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 23-48, Fall.
  11. Eric von Hippel, 1998. "Economics of Product Development by Users: The Impact of "Sticky" Local Information," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 44(5), pages 629-644, May.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13172. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.