Author Archives: Claire Laybats

All change, all change please

The latest issue of BIR is now available online. In the issue this month we see a focus on knowledge management and change from the reflections of senior managers of business information teams on their short-term strategy going forwards to change imposed through Covid to the disruptive effects of technology:

Our first article this issue is the awaited second part of the report on last year’s BIR Survey. Stephen Philips – Consolidate Gains, Implement More Change – The 2021 Business Information Review Survey: Part 2. This part of the survey looks at trends in how leaders are shaping their operations through technology, content acquisition, vendor engagement and client engagement. It finishes with a look at priorities going forward for the near future.

Our second paper by Taleho Tseole – Improving Knowledge Retention in the Cross-Border Mergers of the Telecommunications Industry of Lesotho is part of a larger PhD study and takes a look at how knowledge retention can be improved in the consolidated telecommunications industry in Lesotho, South Africa. It considers what actually happened, the knowledge that was retained and how that might have been improved with the use of more formal techniques.

Our third paper by Sanjay Kaushal – Sustainable knowledge management during crisis: focus on Covid-19 pandemic is a review of the literature around the importance of effective knowledge management in the mitigation of the effects crises can have on organisations. It uses the Covid 19 pandemic as the example. The paper considers what the literature shows in relation to what has been effective knowledge management through people, process and technology throughout this crisis.

Our fourth paper by Abdulakeem Sulyman – Smart Libraries: Changing the Paradigms of Library Services takes an interesting look at the effects of technology that have created ‘smart services and products’ in particular it looks at the emergence of the Smart Library Service considering both the flexibility that smart services can offer as well as what new challenges may be raised in implementing such services.

We finish this issue with our regular writer, Hal Kirkwood and his quarterly article Perspectives Revisited. This issue focussed on market research, competitive intelligence, and social media research papers from across Sage publications. Papers of interest quoted look at the exploitation and exploration of knowledge, the effects of the commoditisation of market research through the publication of industry insights and the importance of marketing information, how it can fuel growth within an organisation but also by the nature of wealth of information collected how caution needs to be exercised in order to not come to inappropriate or inaccurate conclusions.

Just A Few Questions: Penny Leach

Author: Hal Kirkwood, Bodleian Business Librarian and BIR Editorial Board member

In the second instalment of Just A Few Questions, I spend a little time with Penny Leach, Head of Business Information Services at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to find out more about her role and her perspective on the information industry. 

Hal: Tell me about the EBRD and your role there.

Penny: The EBRD is the only International Financial Institution (IFI) based in the UK.  Founded in 1991 in the post-Cold War era, to further progress towards ‘market-oriented economies and the promotion of private and entrepreneurial initiative’ in Central and Eastern Europe, we now operate across three continents in almost 40 countries and have as shareholders 71 countries as well as the EU and EIB.   Our primary activity is to finance projects in our Countries of Operation so as to promote environmentally and socially sound and sustainable development; our investment work has evolved over the years,  most recently with the Green Economy Transition approach.   

I am the Head of Business Information Services (BIS) at the EBRD.  We provide access to external content for our internal clients, either directly through licenses to data and research products, or via our team of researchers.    Given the wide-reaching mandate of the Bank our client base is very diverse – bankers, risk managers, economists, political counsellors, lawyers, and compliance officers amongst others.   The majority of the team are based at our London headquarters; however, in line with the expanding footprint of the Bank we now have staff based in subsidiary offices, including Istanbul now that Türkiye is the biggest recipient of our funds.   Fortunately, unlike some of our colleagues in other multilateral development banks, our services are all virtual – we do not maintain a physical collection of any kind. 

Hal: What are some of the specific projects you are currently working on? 

Penny: BIS is very much part of the Bank’s first line of defence of the integrity of the Bank, helping protect its reputation and future through due diligence in relation to new business and existing transactions.  Our Integrity operations have grown in volume and complexity, and we are reviewing the tools and processes we follow and use.  The intention is to be part of the digital transformation of the Bank.

Obviously, we need to constantly review the skills of the team as well as the portfolio of external content we can access, to remain aligned with the Bank’s business and other initiatives.  In recent years changes have included expanding our linguistic capacities to support the Bank’s geographical expansion in to the Southern and Mediterranean region and researching sources to support our Countries of Operation through the pandemic, the impact of the war on Ukraine, changing sector strategies (such as the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy) and the need for climate finance.    

As a background to all our activities this year, we are making a physical move from the City of London to our new office in the Canary Wharf business district, and a virtual move with a migration to a new computing environment.   Currently we are also implementing a new enterprise subscription management platform.

Hal: What do you see as the biggest or most influential trends within business information?

Penny: Naturally we subscribe to a wide range of data and information products ranging across many content types – market data, market research, ratings, risk intelligence, news, statistics and so on – as well as searching open sources.  In common with other colleagues in the sector, we see that M&A activity is dramatically impacting the business information sector, causing disruption and uncertainty in managing agreements with providers and their mix of products.   I look forward to further innovation from the investment in the market.  We also see big players bundling products in to a ‘one size fits all’ offering; while internal customers want very granular data, potentially as feeds, raising the complexity of licenses – already more complex due to data protection and other provisions – and adding to the challenge of understanding and monitoring usage.  Suppliers are affected too by change and cost pressures, with one seeming by-product a dramatic increase in the rate of churn across account contacts and, in some cases, a decline in service levels.  When it comes to market research a particular challenge is distinguishing credible research providers against those offering very topical reports, but which are not necessarily based on anything other than mathematical manipulations of figures extrapolated from open sources or their more reliable competitors. 

Hal: Considering the information profession as a whole, what do you see as the biggest challenges on the horizon?

Penny: I prefer to view this question as focused on opportunities for information pros.  These are huge as the need for information and data, and their effective management, rises across sectors (academia, industry, third sector, etc).   Roles can be very varied – researcher, knowledge manager, product developer, account manager, business analyst.  However, it’s true that the value of information professionals may not be recognised against multiple perceptions of information as a commodity to be procured, as a business tool, as part of a technology platform, as a problem that AI will fix, as an activity where a commonly used search engine can find the answer.   And we need to keep investing in our talent pipeline.  Unfortunately, as witnessed by the challenges facing membership groups such as the SLA, the diversity of roles for information professionals can weaken the bonds of the professional community, otherwise a valuable source of education and experience for that pipeline.   Nonetheless SLA Europe is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and is still going strong. 

Hal: Thanks very much, Penny, for chatting with me today.

Just A Few Questions will become a recurring series here on the Business Information Review Blog. If you would like to suggest someone for a future interview, please email me at

Surviving and thriving as an information professional in a corporate world

Author: Denise Carter, Managing Director & Principal Consultant DCision Consult and BIR Editorial Board member

Working in a corporate setting as an information professional has its own unique challenges. We are often working as a sole information professional, and as such we can get over-looked and under-valued. Getting recognition and acknowledgement for the very real value we can and do bring to organizations can be a challenge.  

Based on 25 years’ experience here are my top 7 tips for being a successful information professional in a corporate world:

  1. Know your organization and customers; keep learning constantly.
  2. Define what you do carefully; don’t offer services you can’t maintain and do well long-term.
  3. Sell your team by your name(s) AND the name of the team. Make sure the individuals delivering the service get recognition.
  4. Sell your skills and expertise not just the services offered.
  5. Take on new distinct shorter-term projects that have the potential to improve your knowledge and expertise and increase your value to the organization.
  6. Be constantly ready, willing, and able to change and adapt.
  7. Keep changing and adapting.

And then here is my take on what you need to understand and acknowledge about yourself and your organization to not only survive but truly thrive:

  • You are the expert: No-one else in the organization understands the tools, science, and art of managing information as well as you do. 
  • No-one else is interested in the detail of how you do you what you do. Only the results count.
  • Results matter. Speed and deadlines matter.
  • Your boss will be likely be the person with the least interest/knowledge about what you do.
  • You will change boss / department frequently. 
  • You will constantly have to explain / justify your work, your costs, your value.
  • You will be seen as a huge expense first and an asset second.
  • You will never have enough time.
  • Every day will be different.
  • You will likely be a different personality type than most people in the organization. You need to learn their language, what makes them tick, and what you need to say to get them to first, listen, and second, to act.
  • You must adapt yourself to the organization and its culture, or you will neither thrive nor survive. But at the same time, you must stay true to your ethics and values as an information professional.

Denise Carter is the Managing Director & Principal Consultant for DCision Consult, which conducts research and CI projects for pharmaceutical & biotechnology companies. Prior to this she worked for multi-national pharmaceutical and chemical organizations for 25 years.

Just A Few Questions: Seema Rampersad

Author: Hal Kirkwood, Bodleian Business Librarian and BIR Editorial Board member

In this first instalment of Just A Few Questions, I ‘sit down’ with Seema Rampersad, Senior Business Research and Service Manager at The British Library, and the current President-Elect of the Special Libraries Association to ask her about her current role at the British Library and what she sees as the key issues for the business information profession. 

Hal: First, please tell me about the BIPC and your role there.

Seema: The Business & IP Centre at the British Library has been supporting start-ups and established businesses to grow and develop.  We have one of the largest free collections of business information in the United Kingdom.  Over the last 16 years, we have supported 10000s of entrepreneurs, and the success of the centre has created a strong blueprint brand to expand our network across the United Kingdom to other regionals and local libraries. We have also collaborated on European projects to support business such as in the Erasmus for Young Business and in our own Innovating for Growth programme.  

I work in the reference and research section of the Business & IP Centre, which can be very varied on a day-to-day basis.  I serve customers in our Reading Room in the centre with their reference or research queries, deliver workshops, webinars, one-to-one clinics, and project work. We have several business information databases which can only be accessed in the centre, these require showing customers how to use the systems, how to navigate the library electronic and hard copy sources.  We have an online reference enquiry and chat service using the LibAnswer system where we answer general queries from an international audience. I provided a chargeable business information and evidence for patent litigation research to private international clients.  

We have been running programme webinars for over ten years, which helped us transition seamlessly in the pandemic.  I usually present about 2-3 business related workshops per month, and we hope to go into a hybrid model soon.  There have been a few projects work over the years such as an Open Innovation with European Partners, training and sharing insights with the BIPC Network in the UK, and more recently, the Start up In London Libraries over 10 London boroughs.  As a national library, we do host lots of visits, tours and talk on the collection, our services, and the centre. 

Hal: Is there a high demand for business information to support entrepreneurial development and growth? What type of projects or clients do you work with?

Seema: Definitely there is a high demand for support, and it was one of the feasibilities for the expansion of the BIPC Network.  There has been a phenomenal number of entrepreneurs over the years who are innovative on multiple sectors.  We have seen a whole new tech industry develop over the last 15 years in London but also across the UK.  There has been an organic growth in persons wanting to start their own businesses as well as using the positive developments of ecommerce and online presence.  Business information is still at the crucial to a company who is planning their strategy for launching and growing.  We encourage entrepreneurs to look at the commercialisation of their business idea, explore the market and look at the trends and forecasts for their sector, as well as assist them in finding B2Cs and B2Bs using the company data sources held in the library. Our unique selling point is the strong ties with the Intellectual Property Centre and with the collection for patent information, which complements business information for protecting businesses. We frequently provide expert intellectual property knowledge to customers and for project work.

We generally work with anyone wanting to start or grow a business, but we also have academic researchers, other corporations for their paid prior art or business research, and any readers who come into the library to use the collection or spaces.  We do also have various partnerships and frequently liaise with our project partners inside the British Library and other outreach stakeholders. 

Hal: Is there a strong and supportive information ecosystem between organizations like BIPC, academic business libraries, and other groups?

Seema: There were some organisations who do similar service such as ourselves for the business community such as the Small Business Research and Enterprise Centre (SMREC), London & Partners, the London Growth Hub, and we tend to refer our customers to these complementary organisations.  In the past, we have had some projects with academic business departments such as UCL and Edinburgh University – it is an area of work that we can explore more in future; for example, I am aware that the CASS Business School do great work for business.  I do regular tours for students on Goldsmith University’s Master in Creative Entrepreneurship.  For intellectual property projects and initiatives, we do have regular projects with the PatLib Network, The IPO and the European Patent Office. And not forgetting, we now have a National Network of BIPC Libraries – which is a supportive information ecosystem attached to regional and local libraries across the country. 

Hal: What do you see as the biggest or most influential trends within business information?

Seema: There will still be a focus on new data tools.  Having seen the evolution of databases over decades, there have been gradual but consistent changes over the years to incorporate new data sets that are available from open data sources, such as the Statista database having a large percentage of content from open sources, as well as from their own content and analysis.  The last few years have seen a change in the megatrends that is affecting the way we work and live our lives – this too is reflected in the information and the trends we find on business sources.  Global sustainability goals are mentioned more in business information content, as we try to mitigate some of the issues and risks that the world is currently facing.  Hybrid models of working have impacted on access and our information needs, plus we have seen a great positive digital transformation for organisations who may have been a bit slow in adopting digital and collaborative technologies. It can only get better.   

Hal: Considering the information profession as a whole, what do you see as the biggest challenges on the horizon?

Seema: Financial stability and raising costs will be one of the biggest challenges as we go into the third year since a pandemic as well as the rising cost-of-living and inflation internationally.  I am hoping this will not have an adverse impact on libraries, library and information budgets, and professionals as we have already had so much disinvestment over the last 15-20 years.  This gives us more of impetus to find positive ways to showcase our role in stimulating business and the economy indirectly by the support we give to entrepreneurs and business small and large – near or far.  We must demonstrate our unique access to specialist information, networks of expertise, and a skill-set that is great for supporting research, productivity, innovation and creativity. Therefore, we must actively advocate, invest, and find our allies in industry and the business community to highlight our roles in enabling and empowering economic and sustainable futures. 

Hal: Thanks very much, Seema, for chatting with me today.

Just A Few Questions will become a recurring series here on the Business Information Review Blog. If you would like to suggest someone for a future interview, please email me at 

Lessons learned from digitising a Knowledge Handbook and more

June’s issue of Business Information Review is now out.  We have a featured article available from Dominique Poole-Avery on the digitisation project of Arup’s Knowledge and Information Handbook that she led.  The article, which can be viewed for free here takes us on a journey through the design and process of taking a hardcopy Knowledge Handbook first designed in 2008 and widely used by the organisation and making it digital.   The handbook was originally designed as a “reference guide to the firm’s KM resources. Its primary goal was to provide practical guidance on the tools and resources we used at Arup to develop, find, and share our knowledge and information.”

The article is full of useful ideas and lessons learned focussing on a user first approach which enabled the team to develop the handbook into a tool could be viewed through different lenses depending on the perspective of the user.  

Also featured in our issue this month is the best paper prize winners for 2021 – Ann Cullen and Patrick S Noonan and their article Who owns and cares about the data? A method for identifying and gathering information for business research investigations.  We also an interesting piece reflecting on the importance and impact of language diversity in global organisations. The theme running through all of our articles in this issue relates to good and best practice that can be considered in other organisations and environments to facilitate knowledge and information management.

For an overview on June’s issue please see our editorial

“The only constant in life is change” Heraclitus of Ephesus (535-475BC)

Author: Stephen Philips, BIR Board member

When asking colleagues “are you returning to the office”, it appears to be an emotive question, the responses to which run the gamut of emotions, all within a sentence or two. 

 As a society we adapted very quickly to the call to work remotely during the health crisis, indeed it was a welcomed shift.  Okay, it presented some challenges and minor inconveniences, but overall many felt it was no sacrifice to not be in the office.  As the health crisis continued, lockdowns came and went, some returned to offices whilst others continued to tough it out at home.  Latterly, some started to lament their absence from the workplace, welcoming the opportunity to get back, recognising some very definite benefits of rebuilding their social capital with their colleagues.

Reflecting on these reactions, it seems to me there are parallels with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ “The five stages of grief” (, which she subsequently adapted to the change curve.   Not everyone goes through all five stages, but there are indicators that many organisations and their employees are at different points along this curve:

  • The initial shock associated with the need to return to the office is quickly replaced by evidence of denial.  A colleague recently went to a colleague’s leaving drinks.  The venue was a crowded city bar, but he couldn’t find one colleague that had been working in the office that day.  Many citing the risk of COVID for not going in.
  • Frustration manifests itself in a number of ways, but some colleagues express theirs by citing “Why do I need to go the office?  I am just as productive at home”
  • Resignation has crept in with many admitting they will return to the office in some capacity at some point, it is just a question of time.
  • The experimental phase is where most currently find themselves, employers are setting expectations of their employees and providing guidance, with many offering hybrid working.  Colleagues are figuring out how a hybrid model might work best for them.  Whilst some employers are planning to reduce the salaries of those working remotely on a permanent basis, including Google and Stephenson Harwood.
  • The decision making stage has manifested itself in attrition, as people decide if they can work within the new paradigms or if they want to follow their own aspirations (Whitney Johnson, HBR:  Contrary to what you might believe, colleagues I have spoken to appear to have had little trouble in finding new talent.
  • Integration is the final stage of the curve; accepting change, adapting to the new normal and getting on with it. Whilst I would contend that some organisations are already there, having largely returned to their pre pandemic work rhythms, many have some way to go.

The humanist in me would like to believe that the future of work will be shaped around people, in order to drive the best outcomes both for the organisation and the individual.  I fear that will not be the case.  The current labour shortage makes it a job seekers market, the UK ONS estimates there are 1 million fewer workers in the economy than pre pandemic and over 1 million vacancies to be filled.  Organisations are increasing pay, perks and benefits to attract new talent and retain tenured staff by bringing them in line with market.

A global recession, caused by rising prices and interest rates, increased resource costs, volatile financial markets, the global upheaval caused by regional conflicts and increasingly strained supply chains may flip the jobs market on its head.  It will also erode the finances of those that decided to retire or “downsize” during the pandemic.  Work will once again become attractive, or a necessity and may signal the end of the hybrid working experiment.  With less pressure to accommodate their demands, employers will be emboldened to re-engage staff on their own terms.

With so much of this out of our individual control, I tend to look for inspiration or words of wisdom from others. On this occasion, I will leave the last word to Socrates (470-399BC): 

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”

Are we truly working digitally?

The move to digital has been going on for some time.  Products and services are more freely available online and in digital formats than ever before but have our methods of working adapted and developed too?  There are certainly the tools available to enable a more digital and effective way of working but as we now know none were really utilised in anger until fairly recently as the pandemic forced our hand.

In his first article for BIR Lee Bryant, Principal of POST*SHIFT and Shift*Base, explores the world of digital working and how we have struggled to truly take onboard its benefits for a more effective way of working when it comes to the ‘office’ environment.  Even during lockdown when we have been forced to work remotely most people have taken the processes and practices from the office and continued them as best they can online.  Enter in the back-to-back Zoom meetings, hours spent online more than ever and still talk of feelings of isolation and disconnectedness.

The truth of the matter is that it is not just a matter of using tools that have been available to us for a long time but a need for a shift in perspective and with that a change in leadership perspective to move us into a truly digital world.

In his article Lateral layers and loops: Why managers need to curate the fabric of the digital firm in a post-lockdown world Lee notes that manufacturing and engineering production lines moved processes to more efficient digital ways of working some time ago but that the office environment has not followed suit.

In reflecting on this I realised that though working remotely since 2014 it is only in the last 6-12 months, I could consider that I have really been working any differently to what I did when I was office based.  It took the pandemic, a lot of asynchronous working and working with a leadership team who were committed to developing the most effective and efficient ways to work, to enable me to understand and accept that meetings are not always the best way to get something done. (Not an easy thing to do when you have been used to working with consultancy teams who are used to jumping into a meeting room for an impromptu meeting/brainstorming discussion).  There is a sense of freedom and satisfaction of getting things done, utilising these tools as they were meant to be used and actually ending up with free time at the end of a day when you can close out and ‘go home’ that comes with this shift in perspective and way of working.

The road ahead will not be straight forward but the point to note is that we have jumped forward in realising what is possible and getting more to grips with digital working.  We now need to work on that next leap to truly work in a digital world and get the best from it.

Check out Lee’s article a compelling and thought provoking read – will you have a light bulb moment?

Lee Bryant is passionate about using social technology to put humans front and centre of the way we do things in the Twenty-First Century, and believes social networks, not bureaucracies, are the organising principle of the current era. He co-founded Headshift in 2002 to investigate new uses for social technology inside companies and organisations, which became a leading international social business consultancy and was acquired by a US firm in 2009. In 2013, he co-founded a new company, POST*SHIFT, dedicated to exploring the intersection between new social technologies and new thinking on organisational structure and culture.

June’s issue of BIR now available

In this issue we welcome back Stephen Philips with part 2 of the BIR annual survey results, and regular writers Sharon Richardson with another insightful Out of the Box article and a round up on interesting articles and themes in Hal Kirkwood’s Perspectives: Revisited.

Phillips ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’ – The 2020 Business Information Review Survey: Part II

To make the survey results more digestible this year we have split the results into three reports. Part 2 reports on our participants’ reflections on a range of topics that are shaping their operations including the operating environment, technology and content trends.

Richardson The new physicality of data

In this latest ‘Out of the Box’ article Richardson looks at some of the innovations made possible by the focus on digitisation of existing processes and interactions and the integration of this with real world interactions and bricks and mortar. She explores some of the implications of this new physicality of data from the birth of a digital twin to the death of privacy, and the growing urgency for new approaches to data governance and information lifecycle management.

Kirkwood Perspectives: Revisited

In this issue of Perspectives Kirkwood looks at different facets of business and professional communication education, research into market intelligence and market researchers’ usage of technology, design-thinking, and the development of entrepreneurship in small cities. He reflects on how aspects covered in the articles in these areas are like situations experienced by business libraries and their users. He also looks at articles that investigate different business and management factors to the responses to the recent COVID pandemic again reflecting on the similar scenarios librarians face and important lessons learned that can be transferred to a library/information team.

Talafidaryani Digital transformation: Towards new research themes and collaborations yet to be explored

This paper is a review of research collaborations in digital transformation which indicates that research has particularly focussed on the following three areas: Technological and Industrial View, Organisational and Managerial View, and Global and Social View and that institutions particularly in Northern Europe have had better performance in research collaborations in this area. It also notes that Technology, Sustainability, Big Data, Information and Communications Technology, Innovation, Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence, Business Model, Social Media, and Digitisation.

Ayinde Knowledge audit as an important tool in organisational management: A review of literature

This article is a good overview on the current literature and importance of knowledge audits. Covering audits, risk, national and international standards the paper seeks to answer the questions around what to consider when an organisations commence with a knowledge audit.

Luke Tredinnick and Claire Laybats

Exciting news! BIR Survey results presented at CILIP K&IM SIG Professionals week

BIR is delighted to announce that lead researcher and BIR board member, Stephen Phillips will be presenting some of the results of our annual survey at CILIP K&IM SIG professionals week taking place on 14th June.  This is the first time in its 30-year history that the results of the survey will have been presented outside of the published journal.

CILIP K&IM SIG professionals week entitled SHIFT: the future of knowledge and information management will be a virtual event running Monday 14th through to Thursday 17th June.  In addition to Stephen, other presenters include Natasha Howard, Paul Corney and Rory Huston.

As the focus of the event is on the future and changes to careers Stephen will be presenting on three key themes that were identified by our survey participants as areas of priority and focus for them in 2021.   These are:

Client engagement: We have seen from the results that client engagement was a significant challenge, but that this is not all bad news. Stephen notes that “the pandemic has also levelled the playing field when it comes to client engagement.  With everyone working from home, traditional hierarchies were eroded and IS teams found themselves with unprecedented access to stakeholders, although some found it harder to engage more junior colleagues.  For those organisations that continued to recruit through the crisis, reaching new colleagues to onboard and educate them about IS capabilities was especially challenging.”

Hybrid working: This looks to be a very popular theme for 2021 as we come out of pandemic restrictions but want to capitalise on the positives of working remotely whilst still maintaining good links with the office too.  Stephen says that “some IS teams have shifted their focus to support the hybrid working, capitalising on improved digital literacy of their users and stakeholders.”

Staying ahead of the research curve:  What will it take to keep pace with demand?  Our results highlighted 20% upward increase in demand for IS services during the pandemic.  Stephen notes that “there is widespread recognition that IS teams need to be more agile and nimble to prevent their contributions being rendered obsolete by the rapidly changing operating environment”.

Do book your place (open to CILIP members and non-members alike) and join us in what will be an interactive session – short presentation followed by the opportunity to reflect on and discuss with peers, these themes and ideas in breakout ‘café’ style sessions.

BIR Annual Survey 2021 is out now

We took a break from the BIR Survey last year due to a change in personnel managing the survey but have come back this year under renewed focussed to report on perhaps the most disruptive year in recent memory.  BIR is pleased to welcome on board Stephen Phillips who is heading up the survey now.  Stephen is an experienced leader of global teams with a successful background in enriching client relationships and engagement in financial services.

The survey this year, unsurprisingly, is heavily influenced by the pandemic.  Our global theme is one of changing work practices.  The amount and richness of the research this year was such that we have decided to split the results into 3 separate reports which will span over our March, June and September issues.  “Never let a good crisis go to waste” – The 2020 Business Information Review Survey: Part I, which is available online to read now, focusses on ‘The Organisation’ looking at structure, where information services sits and what the effects of remote working have been and Staffing – have teams in the last 12 months, downsized, increased or stayed the same.

Something that really stood out for me was the effects of remote working on teams and client engagement.  Overall, as a whole, the sector adapted fairly fluidly to working from home and work life continued on as people adapted to video conferencing through Zoom or MS Teams or similar.  Connections were still being made, video enabled us to still maintain a richer communication form than just voice alone but feedback from some was that it just wasn’t good enough particularly when it came to maintaining and developing those relationships where trust was a major factor.  There were those who looked to get back to the office as soon as it was possible/safe to do so to be able to maintain that valuable face to face interaction.

Why is this physical face to face interaction so important to us?  A look at why video conferencing can tire us out in and differences in this and ‘true’ face to face communication is explored in a BBC article entitled The reason Zoom calls drain your energy.  The article gives some insight into why, although we are face to face in this medium it is not the same as physically being face to face with someone.  Further in a recent article on Reuters, ‘Major employers scrap plans to cut back on offices’ it is noted that there is reduction of 52% of chief executives considering cutting back on office space from a survey conducted in August 2020 to one conducted recently.  Reflecting with colleagues on this recently I heard that many sales leaders were looking forward to ‘getting back out there’ to meet over coffee etc. with clients.  There is something special about face-to-face communication it seems that even a global pandemic cannot extinguish.

Coming up in part 2 in June we take a look at the operating environment, technology and content trends.