Category Archives: Articles

Back to Basics?

Another of the issues we look into in December’s BIR is the challenges around the effective implementation of policy, why it is so important and what the solutions may look like.  On reviewing the subject I discovered that poor implementation of policy was not specific to any one sector, the same challenges faced everyone.  Of particular interest was an Oracle sponsored Economist Intelligence Unit report – Enabling Efficient Policy Implementation (2010).  The research investigated both the challenges and opportunities faced by organisations today and discovered that poor implementation of policy could be catastrophic for organisations leading to law suits, prosecution or fines, however these consequences did not affect greatly how policy was created, communicated and implemented. 
We have seen the consequences of poor information security policy implementation first hand with most weeks having a new incident reported in the news.  The latest story to hit the headlines being the security breach at British Gas but perhaps the biggest story was that of TalkTalk.   This illustrates the close link between IT security policy and information security policy but also the lack of clear standards on what levels of security are needed for different types of information held (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/oct/23/talktalk-criticised-for-poor-security-and-handling-of-hack-attack ).
There is a definite need to be proactive in policy implementation, from first stage communications to effective monitoring, all of which needs to be properly resourced, a challenge indeed in many of todays leaner organisations.  Challenge, yes, but highly important as nicely stated in the EIU report, “policy cannot enact itself”!
But then if resourcing is important so is the need for effective ways to ensure those affected by the policy see the importance of it and adhere to it.  Well yes of course but this seems to be easier said than done.

At the start of our exploration of this area two of our articles look at policy this time, considering the need for information security management and the importance for information asset management.  Read more in December’s issue and follow us on this subject throughout 2016.

On the brink of a digital doomsday?

A couple of weeks ago the Daily Telegraph reported the threat of an emerging information dark age (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11922192/Vital-information-could-be-lost-in-digital-dark-age-warns-professor.html). According to Professor David Garner, former president of the Royal Society for Chemistry, technological obsolescence endangers the future of digital information, and underlines the necessity of paper back-ups. Professor Garner cited the BBC’s Digital Domesday project from 1986 as an example of digital obsolescence.
On the brink of a digital domesday
You could be forgiven for experiencing a vague sense of deja vu on reading the above. It is an article that could have been published any time since over the past twenty years. Indeed, the specific example of the BBC Digital Domesday has almost become a cliché of such concerns. While I don’t want to suggest that no challenges remain, the Digital Domesday happens to be a really bad example of the problem of digital preservation, and bad in precisely the right way to highlight why the problem isn’t quite as catastrophic as it may appear.
The attraction of the example derives from the contrast between the vellum of the surviving copies of the original Domesday book, and the laser disk of the 1980s equivalent. But this association with an important historical artifact confers a spurious significance on the digital Domesday. In fact the BBC project has no great historical value and is somewhat of a cultural curiosity.
More importantly, the BBC Digital Domesday is a bad example of the issues associated with digital Domesday because many of the reasons for its rapid obsolescence to do not apply to much digital information today. It was obsolete almost before it was complete because of a unfortunate technological framework -– the laser video disk which was already virtually obsolete outside of educational contexts, and the unsuccessful BBC Master Computer. This tied the data to both its storage medium, and to its proprietary computing environment. The 1980s witnessed a clash of competing proprietary systems and standards in the micro computer marketplace, but this is a situation which has now all but disappeared. In place we have a suite of agreed and open standards and data formats which not only function in principle, but underpin contemporary digital architecture in a real and largely profitable way. And despite the anxieties of Zittrain (The Future of the Internet, 2008) about tethered devices, open systems and standard and generative computing devices are winning the battle.
Finally it is a bad example of an emerging dark age because the digital Domesday project has not been lost. It never really was. You can access it right now at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday. If anything it is a very good example of how robust digital data really is. 
This is not to imply that digital information provides no preservation issues. The best format for created archival record is still paper (especially in those legal related contexts where records are required essentially in perpetuity).  But while this is still best practice, it has to be recognized that it is a defensive position relating to best practice for future archival purposes, and does not reflect the probable future survival of most digital information current in existence. We are on the brink of an age of limitless and virtually cost free storage where the default position will be to migrate and retain data precisely because of the potential future commercial and cultural value of that information which can never be precisely estimated in advance.
What remains however is the problem of data migration and intellectual property rights. It is still the case that information systems do not talk to one another as politely as we might like. Or often at all. This is not a problem that can be overcome with standards and agreements, because the semantic structure of data sets is a significant part of their meaning, and can never be entirely standardised. More importantly, intellectual property prevents automatic archiving of materials In February, Vint Cerf raised this issue, and (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/13/google-boss-warns-forgotten-century-email-photos-vint-cerf) suggesting that:
“the rights of preservation might need to be incorporated into our thinking about things like copyright and patents and licensing. We’re talking about preserving them for hundreds to thousands of years.”

Cerf also suggested a way to manage data migration issues: “the solution” he suggested “is to take an X-ray snapshot of the content and the application and the operating system together, with a description of the machine that it runs on, and preserve that for long periods of time. And that digital snapshot will recreate the past in the future” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31450389). This is an example of using software emulation techniques in digital preservation, widely discussed.

This all comes to mind as we’re preparing December’s issue of Business Information Review (http://bir.sagepub.com), with an interesting article on data migration from legacy information systems, and suggestions for proposed ways of managing the issue.

Luke Tredinnick

BIR Best Paper Prize – Congratulations to Chris Rivinus

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Business Information Review Best Paper Prize is Chris Rivinus. 

His article ‘IT project prioritization: A practical application of knowledge management principles’ appeared in our December 2013 issue and was voted the best paper of 2013 by the Editors and members of the Editorial Advisory Board. 

Chris works for Tullow Oil, a London-based independent oil and gas exploration and production company which regularly wins awards for its innovative approach to problem solving. Tullow’s CIO recently challenged his team to develop an approach to devolve control of IT project prioritisation to non-IT leaders within the company.

Chris’s article explains the approach developed and how it is working to keep the business’s IT strategy aligned with Tullow’s entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to collaborative decision making. 

To celebrate the Prize SAGE is making the article freely available – simply follow this link.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) and LIS research

Louise Cooke and Hazel Hall have published an article in Journal of Documentation exploring the potential value of SNA in library and information science research.  Here’s the abstract:


Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a research approach that focuses on relationships among social entities, and the patterns and implications of these relationships. This paper reviews the value of SNA as a method appropriate to research in the domain of Library and Information Science (LIS). In addition to offering a brief overview of the academic antecedents of modern-day SNA, the relevance of SNA to LIS research is illustrated through the presentation of a case study.

The paper cites an article by Bonnie Cheuk (on SNA and knowledge transfer, published in BIR in 2007) and also develops ideas presented by Hall, Irving and Cruikshank in BIR in 2012.

If you would like to read the article, the published version can be accessed from JDoc contents page on the Emerald web site (non-subscribers to Emerald will need to pay a fee to reach the full text). The full-text of the manuscript is available also available and free to download.

Business Information Review – best paper prize 2013

In 2012 we launched our Annual Award for the best paper published in Business Information Review.

In our March 2013 issue, we announced that the first recipient of the Annual Award was Martin White of Intranet Focus Ltd.

His paper ‘Digital Workplaces: vision and reality’ provided an analysis of the development of the IT landscape over the last ten years, and the influences that are stimulating the evolution of the digital workplace.

The Editorial Board scored each article published in 2012 against a number of criteria:

·         Durability of the content

·         Impact and stimulus to practice

·         Originality and breakthrough thinking

·         Professional relevance

·         Quality of writing and readability

With two issues of 2013 already published, the editorial board looks forward to discussing potential recipients of the 2013 Award. 

We would be delighted to hear from our readers if they would like to recommend a paper they have read for the award.  Leave a comment here or email the editors.

Apps for information professionals

In our December issue we will be publishing an article by Scott Brown in which he describes mobile apps that are relevant to information researchers and professionals, both in their own work and in the services and products which they offer to their clients.

It’s a great, practical article outlining some of the ways in which apps are being developed and rolled out by vendors and other providers.  Brown explores how new developments such as augmented reality are helping create a new generation of mobile information products.  

Scott’s articles are always full of practical advice.  Here’s one of his tips ahead of the December publication date:

“Be sure to ask your current information vendors if they are making apps available for their products, and include mobile access as part of your discussions with current and potential vendors as you negotiate access and contracts”.

Police blogger gets publishing deal

In March 2012, Business Information Review published an article on the use of blogs by members of the UK police force.  In Venting, Joining and Educating, the authors explored the motivations of serving police officers when joining the ‘blogosphere’.
One police blog author has signed a publishing deal with an imprint of Harper Collins.  Confessions of a Police Constable will join the same publishing list as other ‘confession’ titles.  One of these, Confessions of a GP, has already sold a quarter of a million copies in e-book form.

Information overload and filter failure

What does it take to be a successful information professional, when so much information is available to us, our organisations and to our customers?  In March 2011, we published an article by Steve Dale.  In Surviving and thriving as a 21st century knowledge and information professional, Steve outlined how information professionals could use readily available tools to help manage information flows and become more effective.
I was reminded of his excellent, practical advice when I came across this blog post today.  Writing for the Gartner blog network, Craig Roth discusses whether there is an additional factor to add into Clay Shirkey’s famous statement that ‘there is no information overload, just filter failure’.
Roth suggests that we should consider not just the information bombarding us and demanding attention, but the information that is ‘hidden’ from us and could be of real value.  It’s a really interesting blog post – well worth a read.

In September this year, we will be publishing an article by Scott Brown.  In ‘Coping with information obesity:  A diet for information professionals’ Scott comes up with some practical solutions for information professionals, including the concept of ‘slow information’. 
If we are to be successful in our chosen careers we need to be able to demonstrate that we can locate, manage, filter, organise and share information appropriately and effectively.  If we can’t do it for ourselves, then why should our customers trust us?!

Using social media to find business information

In social media for company research, (BIR 28, 3) Scott Brown described how three key social media tools (LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube) can be used to locate key business information.

Scott is also a blogger for the SLA and in his latest blog post he presents a case study on searching for information about Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands (Philips) using ‘non-traditional sources such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

Great tips for using RSS

Sheila O’Flynn’s article on how to use RSS feeds effectively is full of helpful advice and suggestions (BIR, June 2011).

The article focuses on how Sheila uses RSS feeds to help her carry out competitor intelligence for a client but the tips and guidelines are valuable irrespective of why you are using feeds and readers. Sheila explains how to customise your reader to help you effectively organise the information you are gathering.