Friday, 15 April 2016

Business Information Management: what of the future?

Author: Stephen Phillips, Executive Director Morgan Stanley Administration and Business Information Review Board Member

Please note this post is the personal views of the author and not connected with their employer

Several recent publications shine an interesting, but somewhat worrying light on the future of the information profession.

Much has been written about the 2016 BIR Survey, one outcome relates to the skill sets needed to deliver a successful information management (IM) capability.    The decline and softening in perceived value of “core IM skills” at many organisations continues.  This decline appears to be gathering momentum, in a sluggish economy many organisations resort to eliminating costs to drive up margins.  Consequently, IM groups have found themselves at risk of being dissipated around the organisation, outsourced, offshored or closed.  Meanwhile, the survey revealed a continuing undercurrent of opportunity to nurture an understanding of, and demand for a more strategic approach to IM. 

Outsell’s State of Information Management: not a recipe for success is a more recent publication (April 4th 2016) but no less challenging a read.  Based on Outsell’s 2015 global survey of IM professionals, a recurring theme is the need for new/different skill sets to meet evolving needs and demands being placed on the IM staff.  These new skills relate to Data and Analytics, visualisation, ROI/Value analysis, KM and content integration.  A more worrying finding indicated that few IM professionals have the resources (time or money) needed to equip their teams to respond adequately to these emerging opportunities.

The LexisNexis blog on the Future of Law referred to a recent book with similar themes: The future of the professions by Richard and Daniel Susskind. Whilst the blog focuses on the legal profession, the book deals with a wide range of professions.  In the case of IM, we have already witnessed the erosion of the “grand bargain”, the societal contract by which we are granted a mandate to control our field of expertise in return for our exceptional knowledge.  Whilst we retain “exceptional knowledge” of our field, a variety of technologies are enabling or embedding IM competencies and capabilities upstream/downstream of the traditional place of IM operations in an organisations’ workflow.  Forcing IM to reconsider where it fits in many organisations.

So, what of the future?  No one would be so bold as to predict where IM will be in 3 or 5 years’ time.  Organisations evolve at different speeds in response to a range of drivers, which shape their IM needs and strategies.  Two themes will prevail:

·         A strategic role to deliver relevant, integrated IM strategies to meet the changing needs of the organisation.  This facilitating role works collaboratively with functional peers (e.g. IT) to enable colleagues and technologies to self-serve for the information they need to prosecute their business
·         A tactical focus on the operational needs of the organisation.  Some legacy competencies will remain relevant, but commoditisation of these skills continues to dilute their value.  Leaving the information professionals the challenge of moving their work further up the value chain

The current threats are symptomatic of a much wider trend impacting a range of professions and is hardly surprising, as noted by the Susskinds.  Much more critical is the response to these forces, to quote a well-known Sci-Fi foe “resistance is futile”, and will likely be damaging.  No two organisations are the same, but opportunities abound and it is in our gift to create compelling offerings and “save” ourselves. 

To do this, the profession must continue to adapt to new realities, use its expertise to explore new roles or niches.  The IM professional must understand their organisation and its priorities, scan that landscape for openings, and deliver cost effective capabilities to realise those opportunities.  Be objective, agile, entrepreneurial, stay positive, embrace change, explore and ultimately exploit new or related needs and activities to develop and deliver critical IM capabilities relevant to the organisation.  Don’t be afraid to relinquish tasks or responsibilities perceived to be of low value, and don’t try to protect your role or your team, but develop and grow the skills needed to deliver more value for the organisation.

As a colleague once noted: we are all sharks and we must keep swimming to survive.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Re using data to gain knowledge and intelligence from a different perspective

Author - Lynn Strand, BIR Editorial Board, Principal Outside Knowledge LLC and Chair Competitive Intelligence Division SLA 


I’ve been hard at work finalizing a project for a client on the spending habits of US consumers. It got me thinking about the vast array of data collected around the world to get insights into how people spend their money.

While I was primarily using the Community Expenditure Survey from the US Census Bureau for this project, my client had a lot of questions about other data that might be valuable for looking at the rest of the world's spending habits.

It turns out that we can utilize an enormous amount of data gathered by governments, NGOs, foundations, think tanks, management consultancies, banks, journals and  academic institutions, just to name a few.

Want to find out how much it costs to buy a loaf of bread in Paris? Mumbai? Oregon? It’s out there.
How about a nice glass of wine? The average cost of a bottle of table wine in Zurich last year was $15.93USD. In New York it was $12.74USD, but in Seoul? A whopping  $27.66USD! So, what can this tell us about consumer behavior across the globe?

These seemingly small bites of data can be gathered up to create a fuller picture of what the average American, Korean, Australian or Columbian consumer views as important or necessary or frivolous in their day to day life. These important bits of data allow businesses and marketers to identify key new target regions for business growth, new product development  and trends that may influence how, where and when they do business.

I would encourage information professionals to explore the myriad of options available. Here are a few of my open source favorites:

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

March Business Information Review

The March issue of Business Information Review has arrived, packed with the normal eclectic mix of content. First off, is the publication of the 26th Annual Business Information Survey. 

BIR Survey 2016: a regular feature of the Journal since 1991, the Business Information survey is now the longest running continuous review of the business information sector in the world. This year’s survey is also the first to be produced by Denise Carter of DCision Consult, who follows in the footsteps of Allan Foster.  The survey reveals that soft-skills, a commercial mind-set, and a future-focussed outlook are at the forefront of skillsets required by the sector. Commercial organisations are demanding more rounded practitioners who can adapt to “internal consultant” style roles. The most valued attributes highlighted by the research include forward thinking, horizon planning, strategic thinking, and future perspectives. The survey also highlighted the value of interpersonal negotiation and networking skills, and data visualisation and packaging. 

The survey highlights a gap between the qualities demanded of information professionals in the commercial sector, and the focus of traditional library and information education programmes, including short course provision. In decline is the perceived value of “core” information skills including taxonomy and classification. Demand for traditional education and training is also declining, as commercial organisations turn to internal company “academies” or “universities” to fulfil specific training requirements. Mentoring and peer training were also commonly used as training solutions. It is essential reading for everyone involved in the business information profession. 

Social Business Adoption: An empirical analysis: also published in the March issue is a paper focussing on the adoption of social business models. Jacob Wood, Assistant Professor at the School of Industrial Management Korea University of Technology & Education, explores the perceptions of social media usage by organizations and how that can affect their take up and adoption of social media platforms.  The article focuses on organizations from South Korea and New Zealand and takes an analytical look at both the benefits and risks of using social media for organizations in order to examine motivations for and effectiveness of use.  Using technology adoption theory they identified several factors by which to measure perceived benefits and barriers to social media usage.

Searching for Talent – Information retrieval challenges for recruitment professionals: Tony Russell-Rose and his co-author Jon Chamberlin take a look at the challenges faced by recruitment professionals in searching for and sourcing suitable candidates.  In particular they look at the information challenges faced in categorizing and identification of key words to find candidates to match their skills with the most suitable vacancies.  They have interviewed recruitment professionals who have provided insights into information seeking behaviour and information search techniques.  The article looks at the complex Boolean searches that are developed, the challenges in using and maintaining them and the types of functionality recruitment professionals’ value within systems.  The article concludes with a discussion around the implications for information systems development and a balance that needs to be created between automated information retrieval and the knowledge and expertise contained within the individual professional recruiter on what search terms work best.

Modeling Customer Knowledge Management to make Value Co-Creation: In this article, Ali Gohary and Bahman Hamzelu of Department of Business Management, Qazvin Branch, Islamic Azad University, Qazvin, Iran review the importance of managing the knowledge of customers in order to anticipate customer wants and needs so as to gain or maintain competitive advantage.   They consider how Customer Knowledge Management, knowledge management applied to CRM (customer relationship management) is highly effective in the development of new products and services but is not in fact well recognised within organisations. The article reviews the processes that need to be considered as well as exploring conceptual models to gain the most from customer knowledge management.  They also explore ‘mass public education’ within customer knowledge management to enhance and develop customer interaction in the service and product development process.

Perspectives & Initiatives: Martin White returns with his Perspectives column.  His article reviews papers very topical to this month’s issue and this time looks at the effects of language on search and search behaviour.  He considers the use of both modern and colloquial languages and how that affects search results. ther papers he reviews are the usage of mobile data services for accessing information both generally and also through library services.   The need for techniques to develop information sharing between teams working in critical environments and the affects of trust in search results on the assessment of valid results.

Allan Foster brings us an interesting review in his regular Initiatives paper.  He starts with a look at the rise of digital partnerships, why they are increasing in popularity and why they are important.  He reviews pieces of research, one from EIU and one from IDC.  The research articles provide some interesting insights including some very specific future predictions on worldwide digital transformation. He also covers the value of information, how is it valued, how is that realised and provides some interesting insights from the PwC report in this area.  Whilst the valuing information is a bit hit and miss it appears organisations are investing in realising value, specifically generating revenue from their data.  Allan reviews an EIU report in this area.  There are other interesting insights from further reviews covering key future trends that could change the information industry, strong growth anticipated for the market research industry and growth of the big data technology and services sector to name a few.

You can find the issue here: http://bir.sagepub.com/content/current

Friday, 19 February 2016

The longest running survey into trends in the information and knowledge sector

The annual Business Information Review Survey has been published annually since 1991, now in its 26th year the survey, due to be published in March's Business Information Review has some interesting insights from information and knowledge leaders into the ever evolving information and knowledge sector.  Of particular importance is the emphasis on soft skills and a commercial mind-set.  Perhaps controversially, technical skills such as taxonomy and cataloging are not seen as important as they are seen as more easy to teach.  Below is a snapshot of what the survey will report this year including come interesting insights and suggestions into provision of services from information vendors

Read the full report in March's issue of Business Information Review available to download at the beginning of March

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Does your personality type influence your career choice?

By Denise Carter MSc Editorial Board Member and Director of Dcision Consult Sarl

I think it does.  I chose to enter a profession, information, because it fundamentally appealed to my preference for the orderly and organised, my natural curiosity, and my desire to do something helpful. I had also explored being a physiotherapist or speech therapist but even at 15 fortunately for any prospective patients I was self-aware enough to recognise that patience is not one of my virtues.  In my career I have participated in several personality testing workshops, and the results, for examples the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® - ISFJ (Introversion; Sensing; Feeling; Judging), and Success Insights® – predominately  “Blue” (questioning, analytical) and “Green” (caring, sharing) have confirmed that my personality is well suited to the research and information-sharing  aspects of my information roles.

Being an introvert in an extrovert world

However when I view those traits in the wider context of the commercial organisations I have I have worked in, I have in many ways been a fish out of water. In order to succeed in environments where other personality traits are more dominant and can be perceived as having more value, has meant being more aware of not only how I think and react to different situations but more importantly become hyper-aware of how others may think and behave very differently to the same situation.

The view from the other side

Working with, and reporting to, people who naturally respond differently on fundamental issues is something we all need to recognise. One personal example which certainly had an impact for me was being asked at a team-building course to list what would count as a reward. Top of my list was recognition; top of almost everyone else’s was money.  I have to admit money had never even entered my head.  For me it was a light-bulb moment of recognising that the way I saw the world was fundamentally different to the people I was working with on a day-to-day basis, and in order to operate successfully in that world I needed to find a way to put see the world through their eyes when it came to key business actions and decisions. Since then I have learned to have my own reaction to events and situations and then take a few minutes to think through how likely it is others will have the same reaction, and if it is different what would their response be?  It’s not easy but it’s important so you are able not only to survive but also to thrive.

Do all information people think the same way?

If you’ve ever undergone a personality type testing as part of a group you can usually see how the types tend to cluster in teams. In my own experience doing this as part of a business intelligence function where we were all doing essentially similar roles the Success Insights® results were very common across all the group, with only a few outliers.  My guess (no empirical evidence available, and I’m going against my natural tendency for fact not theory) is that the majority of people in the information profession would share a high percentage of common personality traits.  Does that make it harder for information in organisations the visibility it needs? Are we more naturally cautious and not the competitive demanding individuals who always get heard and seen?

What’s the impact?

How we behave affects key business activities:

·      communication with our peers, customers and managers
·      selling the information “brand” within the organisation
·      making decisions
·      managing change
·      managing conflict

I believe that information professionals need to understand better the personal attributes that the information role, particularly in business, now demands and make sure that we develop those aspects of our personal profiles.  We all have the necessary attributes, it just that sometimes they are well-hidden.

What personal attributes are most desired by information leaders for today’s business environment?

In the “2016 Business Information Survey – Demonstrating the Commercial Mind-set”, due to be published in the March issue of BIR,  it was interesting to see how highly information leaders rated certain personal attributes and skills – especially those concerning confidence and communication.  Survey participants responses on desirable skills were ranked, and results clearly showed that having these kinds of personal attributes are valued more highly than information management skills in delivering a first class service.

Your personality type may well influence your career choice but how you then develop your personal attributes and skills certainly will impact your career success.





Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The importance of speaking up

I reviewed an article recently on communication and the effects of employees speaking up on managerial style and company communication flow.  It was an interesting article, which although only focussing on Asian companies, illustrated a number of important lessons including the implications not just for managerial style and management skills but also I felt on knowledge sharing within organisations.

Knowledge sharing is a part of the much larger continuous learning cycle – learn before, during and after doing.  This itself relies on a willingness and freedom to communicate, something that the study above shows is an increasingly complex task particularly in large multi-national organisations.

It reminds me of a project I worked on for an organisation about 12 months ago helping them to develop a learning programme that would be deployed globally and taught through e learning and virtual learning.  The method of deployment relied heavily on participants to proactively communicate freely, effectively sometimes in a language that was not their mother tongue.

We found that the most effective way to encourage communication was through development of a learning charter that everyone (students and teachers alike) agreed to before commencement of the programme.  The learning charter set out a set of guidelines for behaviour, interaction, time keeping and consideration of others.  It was the basis for developing an open environment where individuals felt they were able to express themselves and would be listened to and where there was no fear of repercussion for getting something wrong.  In addition to the learning charter, part of the success of the programme was getting the ‘teachers’ to develop a consultative coaching style to provide flexibility in the programme – giving more time and encouragement to those that needed it.  The programme was so effective that within six months of launch it had a waiting list of participants.


We hope to be covering more on communication, learning and associated KM techniques in later issues.  We would be keen to hear of your experiences.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Knowledge Management – Don’t Forget The SME’s!

Blog post by Stephen Dale of Business Information Review Editorial Board

The research paper by Cheng Sheng Lee and Kuan Yew Wong in the December of issue of  Business Information Review raises a number of interesting points that deserve wider discussion. The research focused on the effectiveness of knowledge management techniques in Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s) in Malaysia. Though the scope of the research is limited to one geographic region, the findings could – and should – be tested against a wider and more international cohort.

According to the research paper, in Malaysia, SME’s account for up to 98.5 percent of the total number of businesses and contribute up to 33.1 percent of GDP. They employ 57.5 percent of the total workforce.

To offer some comparison, UK, SME’s account for over 99.8 percent of the total number of businesses, they contributed over half of UK output in 2013 (GVA) and employ 48 percent of the total private sector workforce.


It is clear from this data that SME’s make up a significant, and growing, contribution to the UK and European economies. It seems quite odd, therefore, that so little research has been undertaken into how knowledge management strategies and techniques have been utilized within and across this sector.

The Cheng Sheng Lee/Kuan Yew Wong research gives us some insights that could be tested against a wider geographic sample of SMEs. Some key points from the research as follows:

·        The literature research identified that the size of an organization affects its behaviour and structure (Edvardsson, 2006; Rutherford et al, 2001) and how it influences the adoption and implementation of KM (Zaied et al, 2012).

·        SME’s should not be perceived as homogenized groups. They themselves can be categorized according to relative size, e.g. micro, small and medium, which can influence the way that KM is implemented.

·         In terms of human capital, medium-sized businesses (SMEs) focus more on codification strategies (explicit knowledge) whereas micro-sized businesses (SMEs) are more dependent on socialization strategies.

·        An obvious point, but reinforced by the research – the need for better infrastructure, such as tools, office layout, rooms etc. increases as the organizations grows.

·        Knowledge Maturity is a key attribute that should be monitored measured. The value of an employee will increase in terms of their contribution to the success of the organization as they progress from beginner, intermediate and advanced staged of KM maturity. Clearly the impact of an employee leaving without an effective knowledge transfer process will be more keenly felt by a small organization. [NB. This is not an excuse for large organizations to treat this is a lower priority!]

·        Company size does make a difference to KM performance measurements. A number of factors are proposed, e.g. impact of high turnover, limited resource redundancy in smaller organizations, smaller organizations will likely prioritize implementation processes over performance measurements etc.

·        KM performance measurement (KMPM) is still new for SME’s, as the majority of analyst reports and case studies remain focused on large organizations, with a mindset that SMEs do not need or are not ready for KMPM.

Overall, this is an excellent piece of research, and highly recommended reading, which despite it’s limited sample size and geographic boundary, gives some very useful insight into how KM is being implemented across SME’s. Reassuringly it shows that a growing number of SME’s see KMPM as vital to the growth and success of their business.

The paper is also a wake-up call to academia, research, analyst and consultancy organizations in that we need for more definitive and comprehensive studies in this field, to embrace UK, Europe and other key industrial and economic zones.


To finish with a quote from the authors: “Enough with large organizations; SMEs should not be neglected as they play a major role in a country’s economic growth”. Who could disagree?