Category Archives: BIR annual survey

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

Business Information Survey on the SLA blog

Is corporate information management in crisis?

Our annual Business Information Survey is a qualitative study based on in-depth interviews with senior information managers.  Researched and written by Allan Foster, the Survey provides rich data on the development of corporate information services.

In the first of a two-part feature, Allan Foster shares the findings of our 2013 Business Information Survey on the SLA Europe blog, looking at the pressures that are impacting on information services and how they are responding.

Thanks to our colleagues at SLA and once again to everyone who participated in the research process.

“Add value or die” – listen to our first podcast!

The March issue of Business Information Review includes this year’s Business Information Survey.

Researched and written by Allan Foster, and now in its 23rd year, the latest survey has been given the rather challenging subtitle “Add value or die”.

You can hear Allan discussing his findings with Sandra Ward on our very first podcast which you can access here.

Some of the key findings of the Survey include:

·         Very mixed fortunes of respondents, from modest expansion to disbandment
·         Serious senior management scepticism of the traditional centralized information services model
·         Outsourcing, on or offshore, still a popular organizational model, with notable successes and failures
·         The professional development pipeline for IM/IS personnel has been damaged by, amongst other factors, outsourcing
·         The notably successful services are finding new and imaginative ways of adding value, sometimes well outside traditional IS/IM boundaries
·         The more removed the head of the IS/IM service is from the senior management and Board, the more vulnerable is the service

The Business Information Survey 2012

The 22nd annual Business Information Survey throws interesting light on many of the key information/knowledge management challenges faced by corporations. It is based on in-depth interviews with 22 senior managers in a wide range of industrial sectors, conducted in December 2011 & January 2012. As in previous years, this is a qualitative survey which is designed to produce a readable, narrative account of strategic factors affecting these services and some of the hard choices that are having to be made in a taxing business climate.
This year’s respondents are, on the whole, cautious about the likely fortunes of their companies and of the information/knowledge and research units they run. However, there is considerable evidence that they are tackling their managerial challenges with realism, imagination and gusto.
Some of the issues covered by the Survey include:
1. Resourcing: how content and staffing budgets have fared.
2. Progress on the integration of external and internal information
3. The affect of the exponential growth of users’ mobile digital devices on information delivery and service support
4. How these information managers handle the issue of working with partners, third parties, individual contractors – and the implications for licensing, vendor relations and support
5. Do they encourage collaboration by managing explicit/tacit knowledge, knowledge silos, communities of practice & systems such as Sharepoint?
6. How does severe organizational turbulence such as from a merger or de-merger affect the IM/KM culture and task?
7. How have their relations with Vendors changed including content licensing, negotiating and service supply issues?
8. Are they using outsourcing and/or offshoring for any IM/KM functions?
9. Search and data mining capabilities in the respondent companies.
10. Are the analytical skills of IS/KM staff being enhanced?
11. What position is the IM/KM function in the company’s value chain and how can it add more value?
12. How important are workflow systems in globally distributed information services?
The Business Information Survey 2012 will be in Business Information Review, 29 (1), 2012. Keep an eye out for it on the Sage Publications website and through tweets and alerts nearer the time of publication.

Allan Foster
Information Industry Consultant

allan.foster@gmail.com

Future ready – in Manchester

Allan Foster, Initiatives Editor and author of our annual Business Information Survey recently ran an evening session for SLA Europe in Manchester. Drawing on the findings of the latest Business Information Survey, Allan shared with the delegates pointers to the skills and approaches required to run successful information services. These include the skills set required to work globally (building alliances and integrating services); being prepared for an increased emphasis on compliance work; and developing ‘hard nosed’ negotiation skills. The session feeds into SLA’s Future Ready theme.