Category Archives: BIR annual survey

Emerging skills for the information profession – The 4th theme in the BIR Annual Survey

Over the past two years Business Information Review has examined a range of emerging technologies that are beginning to impact on professional practice in the commercial information management sector. These have included smart technology, cybersecurity, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality. We have also explore a range of social and regulatory issues associated with emerging technology including GDPR and fake news. The information profession has become closely aligned to technological change, and information professionals have often been early adopters of new ways of communicating, managing, and finding information, data and resources.

The issue that has recurred most frequently over that time, both in the journal itself, and in the conversations that we have with professionals to discuss which professional trends the journal should be addressing, has been the growing place of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI poses advantages as a tool in information management, but also challenges as a disruptive technology for the profession, business services, society more widely. AI has featured as a topic in the journal in March 2018, December 2017 and March 2017. And it is featured again as a dominant theme in the 2018 BIR Annual Survey, but in two ways.

In July this blog reflected on the ways in which AI is poised to transform information work and business processes. But that change and other associated technological developments pose a different set of challenges for information professionals, implying new ways of working, and an associated new set of skills and knowledge. The final theme in this year’s BIR Annual Survey reflects the ways in which senior information and knowledge professionals in the commercial sector are beginning to tackle these challenges, and confront the changing skills-set of the future information professional.

The BIR Annual Survey is the longest running continuous survey of the needs and working lives of commercial information and knowledge managers in the World. Since 1990 it has provided an invaluable insight into the changing world of Information and Knowledge Management. We like to think of it as an annual snapshot of the state of the profession. Throughout July and August we have provided a taste of the issues that are preoccupying information and knowledge professionals in the 2018 BIR Annual Survey. The final report will be published in the September issue of Business Information Review, and provides a fascinating insight into a rapidly changing profession.

Realising the value of data – Third Theme in our BIR Annual Survey

This is the third in our series of themes from the latest BIR annual survey.  The value of data is something that is constantly being discussed within organisations – How do we make the most of the data we have? How do we realise the benefits?  How do we know what we know? how do we commercialise it?

All are interesting questions and equally important.  Since the rise in popularity of ‘big data’ which started around 2005,   (we have been focussed on collating data for much longer than that but technological advancements that culminated around this time gave rise to the possibilities of gathering and making use of large and potentially disparate data sets), organisations have been increasingly looking at gathering data – on their customers, on their competitors, markets, business environments to name a few.  Within this time organisations have also been trying to figure out how they can realise the value of the data they have gathered.  Even today with advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) organisations are still struggling to assess the value of data.  If it is done correctly it can help inform strategy and investment in future business assets and acquisitions, if it is not then it can be very costly indeed.  There are a number of ways for looking at how to measure the value of data but at this time none are accepted as the way forward.

McKinsey have written articles and conducted research in this area.  They have found that those organisations that are able to leverage customer insights to inform and improve the business are out performing peers by 85% in business growth and sales.  McKinsey note that most organisations find it difficult to realise the potential value of their data because of different technologies, legacy systems and siloed working meaning that data is fragmented all over the place.  It is this situation in particular that hinders organisations taking real advantage of the data they already hold and can lead many into investing externally into research and competitive analysis in order to leverage value from data.

What is the answer?  You the information professional are the key to the answer.  An understanding of search, location and structure of the internal data as well as the context in which it was found and stored is vital to making sense of the wealth of data an organisation holds.  Jinfo reported on the importance of the information professional in Data Analytics – ready your information service (see references below) looking at the importance of source expertise for gathering and analysing external data. In gathering and analysing data context and source are key to providing accurate insights to inform organisational strategy.

Read more about what information teams are considering and doing today to have an impact on data value in our annual research report published in September’s issue.

References

https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/your-data-is-worth-more-than-you-think/

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-analytics/our-insights/capturing-value-from-your-customer-data

https://www.informationweek.com/big-data/big-data-analytics/how-valuable-is-your-companys-data/a/d-id/1331246

Data analytics – ready your information service https://web.jinfo.com/go/sub/report/2760

 

2018 Annual Survey – Theme 2

In theme 2 we look at aspects of data and how the information professional can and should create an impact in this area.  I was recently reading on the Information Today blog a piece on how academic librarians in particular can take on the research and management of data.  It is an interesting piece by Andrew Cox and examines the links between data management and skills needed in a professional librarian role today.  He looks at how the importance of big data has grown from being just the level below information on the knowledge pyramid to the top consideration in enabling organisations to operate, grow and compete on the world stage.  He considers how this has come about through the effects of the rise of big data and the concerns it has raised along with the abilities it has given us to gain greater knowledge and understanding of the world around us.  Read the full article here https://www.infotoday.eu/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/Academic-librarianship-as-a-data-profession-125376.aspx

 

Data governance, literacy and quality are all big featured concerns in this year’s survey.  We have seen and discussed the quality of data and information throughout the year with the rise in fake news being published not always deliberately but sometimes with a mis-understanding and mis-use of the underlying data which at the very best has led to a mis-interpretation of the data.   Also, in the news has been the reported detrimental effects of utilising machines for analysis of large data sets without the relevant context for interpretation.  So, whilst it has been feared in some circles that the rise of big data and machine search and analysis would adversely impact on jobs and employment, it turns out that library and information professionals have never been more needed in order to check the analysis and add valuable context to the data to ensure a true interpretation.

 

Understanding data, how to search for it and teaching others how to check the quality of the data they are gathering is now considered a key skill across all sectors.  Managing that data internally, creating appropriate policies to ensure that the data is not kept beyond its life span is equally important particularly with new international policies such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force.  Compliance with data regulations has taken a rise to the forefront as general public in particular have become more and more aware of data, its use and importance.  We have discussed both in the Journal and blog posts on how data has been used and mis-used to manipulate or influence situations including the impact on the American Presidential Campaign.  Information professionals have the specialist knowledge and skills to support organisations in this area ensuring the correct management of internal data, research of external data and interpretation of large data sets.

 

As specialists in this profession library and information professionals are also of great value in ensuring the ethical use of data to gain information and intelligence.  We have all read about the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal, there have also been reports about other big players including YouTube allegedly collecting and improperly using children’s data.  Any news item about the potential mis-use of data can have a lasting detrimental impact on both organisations and individuals involved.  The importance of the ethical use of data is seen in the new framework guidelines on procuring data analytics that the UK Government has produced for civil servants.  The Data Ethics Framework (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/data-ethics-framework/data-ethics-framework#the-data-ethics-workbook) highlights the focus the Government has on ensuring that the data they collect and use is done so appropriately and ethically.  There is an interesting article and commentary on the Governments data plans by Rebecca Hill in The Register here https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/06/14/data_ethics_centre_framework_government_ai_announcements/

 

Look out for what our research has uncovered specifically on these aspects of data and data management for information departments across industry sectors in September’s Business Information Review.

Looking at the primary research process – an interview with Denise Carter researcher and author of the BIR Annual Survey

Below is an interview with Denise Carter reflecting on the primary research process that she goes through to gather the information needed for our annual research report into the information and knowledge sector.
Tell us about the research process you go through, how has it developed and changed from when you first started?

Usually based on the previous year’s discussions and then conversations with different information colleagues and peers during the year I try to pick on a couple of themes that I believe are of current interest to information professionals. In between surveys, over the course of the year, I try to pick up articles and news items that relate to those themes, as well as anything else I see in both general and professional literature. Evernote is my great “friend” here and I upload everything to a “BIR” notebook, so I can go through when I have time to then do my further reading and see what really is useful and what not so much.

That reading gives me the building blocks for the questions I want to ask, particularly of the telephone interviewees but also to include in the e-survey.
The first year I did the survey I followed much more closely the methodology as described by Allan Foster (BIR’s previous long term author, researcher and writer of the BIR annual survey). In the next couple I have moved to having the e-survey because it handles some of the more routine questions that Allan asked everyone at the beginning of the telephone interviews about the general business climate, budgets, team sizes and so on. Widening this out to an e-survey gives the potential to get more feedback from different people and hopefully make those answers a little more statistically significant.
The process now is that I select a very general theme, collect reading on that over the year. Then I will construct the e-survey, repeating some questions (I hope that in a couple of years we can then include some comparative data), and asking some new questions that are relevant to the theme or to any other issues I see on the horizon. This year I also included a couple more open questions which gave some very insightful comment and I will certainly do that again. I try to collate and do a basic write up of the e-survey results before commencing on the primary interviews. That way I can use any feedback gleaned there to inform the questions and discussion.
What challenges have you encountered?

The biggest challenge is definitely finding telephone interviewees. I have a list of people who are regulars who have been very helpful and loyal to the process. Finding new candidates is not easy and every year it seems that some people retire or go to work in a completely different area and are no longer able to take part. Between July and December this year I plan to make a much more directed effort to finding some new interviewees.

Time is always an issue. Working backwards from the submission deadline of mid-June, then ideally the e-survey would go out second half of January and telephone interviews would take place in February, March, April. Having more time to spread them out would be useful. That would give May to get the article written. Normally I try to add the interview notes immediately following the interview that way everything is still fresh in my mind. This year there was an unexpected event and that threw the timings right out, so this year in particular timing was very tight as the interviews got pushed into May/June. Hopefully next year will be more tranquil and I can stick to my plan.

How have you overcome them?

To be brutally honest I haven’t overcome the issues of time and finding interviewees yet. They are challenges that remain for 2019. As mentioned though I hope in the second half of the year to get my network going and reach out to some new potential interviewees. Hopefully I will be able to stick to the timetable next year and break the process down into chunks.

Can you list your top 5 best practice points for others completing a similar research process/methodology?

1. The more background reading and information you can pull together outside of the primary interviews and e-surveys the better.

2. Get a structure together earlier rather than later. That helps you think of the questions you want to ask interviewees and in the e-survey and build a framework for the final article.
3. But don’t be tied into your intial structure, when you start to get information from your interviewees there may well be a different story that is emerging, you need to be flexible.
4. Don’t make references and figures and tables a chore, try to get these done in the correct format as you go along. Leaving them until the end creates a tedious task.
5. Try to have a break of at least a week, if not longer, after completing the article, and then re-read with relatively fresh eyes (I’m hoping 4th time will be a charm on that one!). Athough you always need someone else to do a proof-read, you simply cannot see all your own errors.
Overall doing a large piece of research like this can be daunting, and every year I wonder why I put myself forward, but it has also been very interesting and enlightening to speak to other information professionals and to understand what they do day-to-day. It also forces you to read, and we all know that we often have great intentions but finding the time to read up on a topic is hard, so this gives me a great opportunity and I appreciate that. This year reading about AI has been particularly fascinating, and even though I’ve submitted the article I’m still collecting more information on that topic.

BIR Annual Survey 2017 now available

We’re very pleased to announce that the BIR Annual Survey is now available on the journal website. The BIR annual survey is the longest running survey into information management and knowledge management in the commercial sector in the world. This year there has been a significant change to the scope and methodology of the survey, making it more comprehensive than ever.  We’re very grateful to Denise Carter of DCision Consult Sàrl for undertaking the research.

Over recent months we have been flagging-up some of the findings of this year’s survey in our posts on this blog. Those issues that have come to the fore in this years research include:

  • What value looks like to different organisations/senior managers
  • Successful strategies employed for measuring and communicating value (up, down and across organisations)
  • Communication methods to reach the right / different audiences in organisations
  • Having the right skill set, what that is, how it is deployed
  • Keeping up to date with professional trends (info and business)
  • What’s on the horizon – info trends, business trends

The full survey results published in the September issue of Business Information Review develop these themes in detail, and are essential reading for everyone in the sector. This year for the first time all CILIP members have access to the survey from the member’s area of the CILIP website; just log-in at the link below:

https://www.cilip.org.uk/membership/benefits/monthly-magazine-journals-ebulletins/online-journals/sage-journals

The September issue of BIR also contains are usual range of articles and columns. Technology unsurprisingly perhaps also features as important in this year survey . This theme is continued through our next article by Virginia Henry entitled People and Tools: Encouraging Rewarding Interaction in the Workplace. Virginia has worked in knowledge, change and learning management for over 14 years. She passes on her insight and expertise in this article that she has developed in getting people to work with technology more effectively. She considers what she has called the ‘humane factor’ and how to incorporate that into successful deployments of technology.

Our third article comes to us from the US. Hal Kirkwood is an associate professor of library science and business information specialist in the Roland G. Parrish Library of Management & Economics at Purdue University, in Indiana, USA. His article, Towards a Unified Theory of Business Information, looks at the importance of business information literacy and its impact on developing key competitive intelligence information to aid critical decision making. He attempts to bring all the different aspects of business information together in one framework to aid effective decision-making through providing an accurate context on which to base those decisions on.

Next, we take a look at the impact of ‘Fake news’, how and why it is generated in an article by Dominic Spohr, Media and Communications student at London Metropolitan University, entitled Fake News and Ideological Polarization. This is an interesting article which offers and exploratory look at the effect technology has had on our intake of news and current affairs, how filtering and personalization of news services has created filter bubbles which ensure that only views we agree with, or are from similar perspectives to ours are fed back to us. The implications of these developments are huge and something definitely worth considering the next time we view news sites.

Martin White’s column on Perspectives this time carries on our communication theme from the survey looking particularly at the use of corporate language and the effects specifically of international local languages. As usual Martin’s column is an excellent overview of the subject and quotes from some interesting research papers on the subject.

You can find September’s issues here.

 

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.

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