Horizon scanning – the sixth theme from this year’s annual survey

What’s coming over the horizon for the information and knowledge management profession? Our final look at themes emerging in this year’s Business Information Review Annual Survey focusses on horizon scanning.

The BIR annual survey is the world’s longest running survey into business information management. For over twenty-five years the survey has tracked changes to the profession including the growth of online, the rise of the web and the emergence of knowledge management. This year the survey is bigger and more comprehensive than ever, combining in-depth interviews with a wider survey.  Due for publication in September 2017 issue of Business Information Review, the survey has become an invaluable guide to sector trends and developments.

As well as keeping you up-to-date with emerging trends in the sector, at Business Information Review we aim to look ahead at what is around the next corner. Over the last couple of years we have covered issues as diverse a Brexit, information security, artificial intelligence, and the general data protection regulations, all of which threaten significant change in the sector over the next decade.

These are some of the topics that we think are on the horizon, but what kinds of issues emerged in the BIR survey? As a part of the survey we asked about the issues that are on the horizon of the information profession. A range of issues feature in the responses across the sector, some of which were familiar, and some of which were surprising. Find out more in September’s Business Information Review.

Keeping up-to-date with professional trends

The BIR annual survey is the world’s longest running survey into business information management. For over twenty-five years the survey has tracked changes to the profession including the growth of online, the rise of the web and the emergence of knowledge management. This year the survey is bigger and more comprehensive than ever. Due for publication in September 2017 issue of Business Information Review, the survey has become an invaluable guide to sector trends and developments. It is ironic then that the fifth theme that emerges from this year’s BIR Annual Survey is the challenge of keeping up-to-date with changing professional trends and developments.

The aim of Business Information Review as a professional and academic journal is of course to help information and knowledge management professionals in the commercial sector to stay up-to-date with emerging trends in both professional practice and the wider business and information environments, and to encourage the pursuit of evidence-based practice in the business information sector. The very existence of this journal might be thought of as an attempt to address the longstanding challenge of staying up-to-date and relevant in the face of rapidly changing contexts in the information world. Business Information Review is not the only publication that has this aim; a whole body of professional and academic literature exists that contribute to contemporary professional practice. And this is the tip of a very large iceberg. An industry of professional information events including conferences, training, and networking events, and wider business and corporate publications and events all aim to help us stay ahead of the game.

But whatever the good intentions of everyone involved in these activities, how helpful are they? What kinds of ways do information professionals stay-up-to-date in their professional practice? What do they find most useful? More importantly, how should you be doing it? These questions emerge as a strong theme in this year’s survey, and the answers to them will be published in September’s issue of Business Information Review.

Emerging skills sets – the fourth theme from our survey this year

Our fourth theme from this year’s Annual Survey is a perennial issue for the information and knowledge management industry: how do you ensure you have the right skills sets, and how do you ensure that the right skills sets are deployed. Over the past thirty years, as digital technology has come to dominate information work in a range of different sectors, the kinds of skills that contribute to professional competency has invariably migrated. At the same time, a large part of what was once considered core professional knowledge has declined in importance, or mutated into different forms. Bibliography, classification and indexing for example may have found new leases of life in resource description and information architecture; nevertheless the changing contexts of some of these newly repurposed professional skills sets require different ways of thinking about the task at hand, its purpose, and how it fits with the wider organisational context.

Information work in the commercial sector is rarely just about core professional knowledge and core professional skills; in the commercial sector information and knowledge professionals are  embedded within other professional contexts that makes professional identity more of a hybrid affair – accounting; finance; banking; pharmaceuticals; law and so on. As we have seen in previous years, of value are often not information skills per se but the ability to integrate those skills within a corporate context by adopting a commercial mind-set and flexible practice. As digital technologies continue to automate key elements of the professions and commerce, employees gain value in those abilities that they bring which cannot be automated.

This year’s survey explores these questions, examining what kinds of skills are emergent in the sector, and how those skills are deployed to add value to information services, and improve organisational effectiveness.

Rich communication, the third theme from our survey this year

Our third theme from this year’s Business Information Review survey of seasoned information and knowledge professionals continues on from the second theme of communicating value.  The third theme is about communication methods to reach the right / different audiences in organisations.  In my last post I touched on the way that it is important to use different communication methods depending on the people involved.  Culture, personalities and past experiences all have an impact on what communication method is going to be effective and successful.

Information and knowledge teams are well aware of the need to meet their customer’s expectations when providing value.  Effective communication in order to understand requirements and set expectations on what an information service can realistically provide is of great importance in ensuring that both full use is made of the service and value is provided. Stakeholder management and in particular stakeholder mapping can really help looking in detail at both those who use the service and those who have an impact on what the service can provide in terms of resources.  Stakeholder mapping will help identify all of those impacting on or using the service no matter how obscure.  Understanding their perspectives, needs and goals can help identify the most effective communication methods to use.  For example communicating with a busy executive that makes key decisions on resource allocation and funding is very different from communicating with team utilizing the service. Demonstrations and presentations may be effective for some end users but not everyone has the same learning style.  Understanding these aspects amongst others in your stakeholder group will help build and deploy an effective communication strategy.

Richness of communication appears as very important in this years survey.  Whilst electronic communications can help reach wider audiences, an ability to use a richer medium can provide a greater impact and an ability to build up more effective relationships.

Discover how face to face communications and relationship building amongst other rich communication methods have helped our survey participants reach the right/different audiences successfully in our survey report published in September’s issue.

 

Business Information Review Survey part 2 – Communicating Value

Successful strategies employed for measuring and communicating value (up, down and across organisations) is the second theme our survey has uncovered this year.  It follows on from the importance of demonstrating value and is a key step in ensuring that value is positively impactful on the organization.  It is well known that in the fight for funding to maintain information surveys and continue knowledge sharing projects the information and  knowledge team must be able to show value to the organization.  In the past this has been a need to provide return on investment proof however, as we have seen from our first theme, providing value is seen as more than just a measurement of value against cost.

When working with organisations I have deployed projects that have gathered case study evidence, provided cost saving services, utlised methods such as the creation and development of expert networks to gather knowledge and expertise quickly for the right project.  Depending on the organization concerned different strategies were more successful than others.  Organisational culture, situation, management teams and past experiences using services from the information and knowledge team by executives and employees all had an impact on what would work well and what wouldn’t.  Getting people’s buy-in to projects top up and bottom down through successful communication of why the project or initiative was important was a very important success factor in ensuring the project or initiative was successful.  Communication tools used included promotional messages around the organization from ‘Q and A’ meetings to posters and email campaigns and demonstrations of value.  Methods used depended on the situation, particular initiative and required impact, how far communication needed to reach to be impactful in the organization etc.

Our survey this year examined a number of different communication methods and how they have been used successfully.  It was clear that there is a place for all communication methods but that depending on the situation, person or group to be communicated to different methods have differing success rates.  There is a clear need for electronic and traditional communication methods especially face to face communication.

Read more on this and discover the detail in the 2017 survey in September’s issue.

Business Information Review Survey 2017 – What value looks like

The annual Business Information Review Survey is due to be released in our September issue. Now in its 27th year, the survey this year widened its perspective in both the geographic location and type of industry respondents came from.  In the coming weeks we will be discussing briefly the six key themes that have come out of the survey this year.

Theme 1 – What value looks like to different organisations/senior managers

Value is perceived differently depending on personal perspective, internal organizational culture and environment and external environmental factors. Context of a particular time period is crucial, what might seem important at a time of prosperity may become completely insignificant in a time of austerity.  In a time of uncertainty as we approach Brexit negotiations with a less than strong government to handle those negotiations and a sliding pound value businesses are striving to remain strong and competitive in a global market.

So how does this affect the information profession?  Information is increasingly seen as important as we have seen from reports and debates on ‘fake news’ and misleading ambiguous information being published.  Reputations and businesses have risen and fallen on such information being released.  Effective management of information affects all areas of the organization whether it is being able to access and make use of key information to improve market competitiveness or keeping safe important personal or company data.  So whilst the information profession in the past has struggled to provide clear hard figures on return on investment, it seems the landscape is changing and that there are other ways to provide demonstrable value.

One clear message coming out of the survey is information professionals are being driven to provide visible impact on the business, moving away from a return on investment to a return on impactfulness.

Read more on this and discover the detail in the 2017 survey in September’s issue.

June Issue of BIR now available online

June’s BIR features a familiarly eclectic mix of papers and topics to mitigate the uncertainty engendered by the political world. The first article is this issue is by Henry Boateng from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia and Abednego Feehi Okoe and Tiniwah Deborah Mensah from the University of Technical Studies Accra in Ghana. Entitled ‘The Relationship Between Human Resource Practices and Knowledge Sharing in Service Firms’, the paper examines the effects of job satisfaction, employee commitment, workplace friendship and team culture on knowledge sharing in the service industries. The study finds that these factors play an important role in the willingness of employees to share their expert knowledge and recommends the importance of workplace teams and team culture in facilitating knowledge management strategies.

Manny Cohen, Chairman of Armadillo Business Information, provides the second of our papers this issue, bringing personal and professional experience to the question of fake news in the commercial information environment. Fake news has begun to dominate the agenda in response to recent political upheavals, such as the US Presidential elections and the Brexit referendum discussed in this editorial. Entitled ‘Fake News and Manipulated Data, Individual Access and the Future of Information’, Manny Cohen explores the relationship between fee and free in the digital economy and the underlying causes of the emergence of fake news and inaccurate information, in a provocative critique of the culture of the information industry.

Our third paper is from Jonathan Engel, Director and Chief Information Architect at InfoArk. Under the title, ‘Improving Retrieval of Structured and Unstructured Information: Practical Steps for Better Classification, Navigation and Search’, the paper discussed how information architecture can improve information management processes and help make information resources easier to search and locate. Providing a practical and useful framework for taxonomy building, the paper also addresses a case study of the development of an extended taxonomy in a global agricultural business, and the improvements in recall, precision and accuracy that resulted.

Keith Dewar’s ‘The Value Exchange: Generating Trust in the Digital World’ is our fourth paper in June’s issue. Keith Dewar is Group Marketing and Product Director of MyLife Digital, a company that provides organizations and individuals with a trusted platform built on security, convenience and control for personal information management. His paper for BIR addresses question of trust in the new digital economy of personal information. Personal information has become a kind of currency of the digital age, exchanged in return for access to products and services and transformed into advertising and other revenues. But personal data have also become highly politicized as a consequence of concerns about privacy, surveillance and corporate and state intrusion. Keith Dewar’s paper explores the GDPR and the ways in which companies can approach rebuilding trust between themselves and individuals in the management of personal data.

Our final paper was written by Mario Oscar Steffen, Mírian Oliveira and Andrea R Balle and addresses questions of knowledge management and knowledge sharing in science parks. Entitled ‘Knowledge Sharing Among Companies in a Science and Technology Park’, the research explores the question of collaboration in Brazil. As the authors note, science parks are designed to facilitate collaboration and encourage concentrations of expertise and therefore should be expected to be sites of knowledge exchange and sharing. They find that much of the collaborative knowledge sharing related to managerial rather than technical knowledge and reflect the desire to refine and improve existing products and services.

Martin White returns with Perspectives to round of June’s issue of BIR. Perspectives takes a broad look at emerging research in the social sciences, in general, that may have escaped the attention of information professionals. This issue he draws on research published in History of the Human Sciences, Journal of Service Research, Information Visualization, Organizational Psychology Review, Journal of Information Science, Communication Research, Organization Studies and Health Informatics Journal. The column touches of issues of information overload, big data, research data management, content management systems, virtual teams and business development. Whatever the uncertainties in the wider world Perspectives remains essential reading for wider professional current awareness.

Luke Tredinnick and Claire Laybats

Man vs. Machine vs. Data….?

Author: Penny Leach SLA LMD Past Chair 2017 and BIR Editorial Board Member

Please note this post contains the personal views of the author and are not connected with her employer
 

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 14th Perfect Information Conference (PIC2017) in Bath, England.  This annual event, hosted by the company Perfect Information (part of Mergermarket), brings together leaders and senior members of information services from within financial and professional service organisations with representatives of their content and service vendor partners.   The high number of repeat attendees confirms the conference’s value.  This year’s programme theme was ‘Man vs Machine: comrade or threat’.  For me (spoiler alert!) the whole event reaffirmed the current and future value and potential of humans in an increasingly technological world.

The conference programme includes keynote speakers, more practical workshops and hot topic think tanks (and of course some socialising!).  What seemed to me initially a rather disparate set of topics actually transitioned from the big picture of artificial intelligence (AI) and its future to more practical implications of change for businesses today.  Having worked myself for a short time at the (original) Turing Institute in the early days of AI, it was fascinating to hear where AI is today.

AI is all around us, was the clear answer from the three speakers who focused on this topic, respectively Marc Vollenweider (Evalueserve), Anton Fishman (Fishman & Partners) and Nicolas Bombourg (Report Linker).  Marc, who is transitioning from CEO to Chief Strategist of Evalueserve, spoke about the explosion of data sets, and the business value to be derived from cheap but effective analytic use cases.   Anton alluded to the ‘perfect storm’ of converging technologies that is affecting the world of machine learning.  Nicolas described Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) – where we are now (machines specialising in one are) – and how we are moving closer to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – machines thinking like humans – and even beyond to Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI).

Are we heading for dystopia or utopia?  There were references to sobering statistics about the predicted negative impact on job numbers, for example, Mark Carney’s speech on the  ‘hollowing out of the middle classes’ and Frey & Osborne’s research in to the future of work in the US.  Ultimately however the message was upbeat. Marc is definite that ‘insights need humans’, and has written about the benefits of combining mind+machine.  Anton referred to the opportunity for the ‘rise of humans’ that Microsoft’s Envisioning Officer has described.   The message is that technology is supporting humans, expanding our potential – AI is already invisibly enhancing our world.  This is not a zero sum game for mankind, even if it does create much management uncertainty, ethical dilemmas,  job redefinition and the need for a new ‘social contract’.

What were my key takeaways from these speakers and all the other interaction at the conference for me in my role as an information professional and services manager?

Information professionals do have roles to play in the new data economy, where the flow of data is driving innovation and growth, as long as they are open minded and upskill.  Marc has elsewhere talked about the emerging role of the information engineer in creating analytics solutions. McKinsey recently re-recognised the need for translators between technology and information, reaffirming the need to link IT, understanding of data, and business need.  Establishing the veracity of data is of course a traditional information professional skill.

Information professionals need to engage with the business, via new channels such as their workplace’s Chief Information or Data Officer (CIO, CDO) – wherever analytics are happening – and change the scope of their services to help the business build effective productivity tools and  new trigger-based workflows, and avoid data lakes that become data graveyards.

Change management is important – keeping people engaged, attracting new talent, enabling career progression, as well as ensuring effective use of the new tools and data by the business.

And for those directly engaged in buying and selling data there are reminders of the early days of the internet and outsourcing in the challenges of delivering and consuming data in new ways – for the vendors, what to build first for which client, how to protect the data, how to charge for it; for their clients where to focus efforts, who will eat the costs; and for both parties, how to deal with the increased visibility of data quality issues.

Overall the Conference ended on an optimistic note in contrast to the anxieties of the 2016 Conference (as described by in the opening session of the conference by Robin Neidorf) and inspite of the seismic political changes we have seen in the UK and USA in the last twelve months.  It will be interesting to hear how things have further changed for the attendees by the same time next year.

Let me know what you think of AI’s impact on your world.

Penny Leach

SLA LMD Past Chair 2017

Winner of BIR Best Paper Prize 2016

We are delighted to announce that the best paper prize winner for 2016 is Sian Tyrrell for her paper ‘From passenger to pilot – Taking the lead and building a business critical information management strategy’.   It was a close competition this time as we have had a number of exceptional submissions however we felt that Sian’s paper illustrated clearly the challenges and potential pitfalls experienced by those developing an information strategy for the first time.  There are some clear lessons learned that can be taken from the paper.  You can read the paper here for free for a short time

http://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/default+domain/GFxgVi4wGNGQ5U2THtak/full

 

 

 

Staying Fresh – putting Learning at the heart of everything we do

Author: Ceri Hughes, Head of Knowledge Centre of Excellence at KPMG in the UK

(Please note this post contains the personal views of the author)

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to review my role and responsibilities at work. We’ve aligned our Learning and Knowledge functions into one group with the aim of protecting and enhancing quality, improving the retention of our knowledge and enabling the continuous process of acquiring knowledge, skills and confidence to improve current and future business performance.  Our new Learning function reflects the traditional elements of a learning value chain: we have Business Learning Partners; a Learning Design team; we deploy Learning Programmes and measure success through our Analytics team. But our structure is underpinned by three centres of excellence: a centre for professional qualifications and accreditation; a Coaching centre of excellence; and one for Knowledge, which includes all activities in support of knowledge management, research, competitive intelligence and collaborative working.  We’ve ramped up the focus of our knowledge strategy on how we assist with accelerating time to competence – learning on the job – and providing immediacy of knowledge, such as access to the latest insights and intelligence to ensure our colleagues have the most informed conversations with our clients.

It’s been a timely reminder for me to review my own learning and development needs and think about the technical and enabling skills that will benefit me in my role and in my new organisational home. I am guilty of neglecting my personal development somewhat. It’s ironic that I diligently review personal development plans for my team members and try to help them find the time and space to be able to learn on the job and accommodate more formal learning interventions, but I don’t prioritise this for myself at all! Stopping to take stock of this has been an eye-opener. It’s been a few years since I last attended a formal training course. Making time for networking events – which I eagerly fitted into my schedule earlier in my career – has now fallen way down my to-do list; and even though I keep a close eye on the professional press and blogosphere, and bookmark all of the articles and posts that I think sound interesting, relevant or thought-provoking, my reading pile (virtual and that teetering on the side of my desk) isn’t getting any smaller.

So, inspired by an increased workplace focus on the world of learning and professional development, I am actively seeking opportunities to learn. Signing up for a few well-chosen networking events has been an easy way to find out what issues are on the radar of other organisations and learn how they are approaching challenges that we share. It’s also been really rewarding to reconnect with old friends and colleagues. I find myself inspired and motivated on hearing how they are thinking about the challenge and opportunity of increased automation and AI; thinking about the importance of legitimacy and authenticity of information and knowledge in a world of fake news; ensuring robust information protection and governance; and the most tactical issue on my mind at the moment – a SharePoint upgrade.

Interestingly, as I’ve chatted to peers in the information industry, it seems that my neglect of my development resonated with others too! Perhaps it’s true that the longer we stay in our profession the less time we spend on developing ourselves. The real truth is, of course, that since we are constantly bombarded by technological advancements, new legislation and regulation, an increasingly sophisticated and demanding customer base and other external and internal influences or pressures (such as the need to stay ahead of the competition or constantly reduce cost and increase efficiency) developing ourselves as individuals is critical for our own success. It’s also vital for the development of the disciplines of the information profession to which we belong. We can learn from each other, sharing innovations and ideas.  If you’re in the same place that I found myself recently, please see this as a call to action to consider your personal learning and development plan. I’d love to inspire each other with ideas on how to do this, so please share your experiences in your comments.