Business information and the bottom line

The UK economy is – once again – ‘in recession’.  Times are hard, and service departments and cost centres need to be able to prove that they are directly contributing to the wellbeing of their organisations.  What messages should information professionals share with senior management to demonstrate how business information enhances our organisations?  This was a key question tackled by those attending Aslib’s second Business Information Community of Practice (BICoP) meeting in London this week.
Strategic alignment
It is critical to understand what it is that your organisation values and to ensure that services support these key values.  Do you attend the meetings that mean you know what deals are going on?  Some delegates recommended ‘forcing yourself’ into these meetings until colleagues recognise the value of your attendance!  Provide support for all key business processes from business pitch to deal closure.
Decision makers and influencers
Can you identify all of your organisation’s champions and budget holders?  What processes do you have in place to listen and respond to your organisational clients?  Does the CEO know who you are?  Do you act like ‘other departments’ – do you have a retreat, and a training budget?  
Evidence base
The gathering and broadcasting of real examples of business impact should be a clear imperative.  How are you tracking the beneficial use of data and information provided by your team?  The creation of ‘annual reports’ with statistical information about impact of services is one option discussed.
Risk management
Information management is key to managing both financial and reputational risk.  The cost of non-compliance and under exploitation of resources and poor competitor intelligence should help colleagues focus on the value of BI services.
Quality assured information
The use of quality sources needs to be promoted within the organisation.  Senior partners and colleagues may be using inappropriate free information sources – although not all free resources are necessarily poor quality.  Kitemarking or ‘indemnity assured information sources’ are options.  Information professionals should be driving increased information literacy within their organisations. 
The challenge of demonstrating value is ongoing and should be a constant concern to business information professionals.  This is a subject we can be sure that BICOP will return to in the future as we seek to learn from each other what works – and what doesn’t – in the ongoing battle to help our organisations thrive.