Category Archives: editorial board

Are we destined to always forget what we already know?

Author – Steve Dale, BIR Editorial Board

I wonder what next in the Windrush saga that has been played out in the media these past few weeks? Have we reached the final page of the last chapter now that Amber Rudd has resigned and the new broom in the form of Sajid Javid takes up the reigns as our next Home Secretary? He clearly sees a need for change, having warned the Home Office to expect an overhaul as he ditches the policy of creating a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants and seeks to break free from Theresa May’s legacy.

But before I lose some readers who may be thinking they’ve stumbled across an editorial in the Guardian, rest assured that I don’t intend to write a political commentary on Windrush. My background is in knowledge and information management, and I think it is worth a closer look at what has played out in the Windrush saga through that particular lense.

The Home Office has long had a reputation as a “political graveyard” for ministers, and though one might argue that Mrs Rudd did not have had full control of her department, there is some evidence of basic failings in the Home Office’s administrative capabilities.

Tony Smith, a former director general of the UK Border Force has been quoted as saying:

”What has gone wrong is that a lot of the corporate memory and experience has been lost with the abolition of the immigration service and the UK Border Agency in the 2000s. Now ten years on there are quite junior caseworkers taking decisions who probably have not got much experience of the broader immigration system. They have little discretion to use their nous and common sense when faced with people without documentation”. [1]

This appears to be borne out by the ‘tick-box culture’ that pervades many government departments, where rules and instructions replace discretion and experience. It’s also a solution to lack of training and inadequate (or non-existent) knowledge transfer procedures, which are particularly important in an aging workforce or where there is a high turnover of staff.  Continuity of knowledge and experience, supported by effective and resilient information management systems are the essential components of maintaining a good corporate memory.

But what do we mean by ‘corporate memory’?

Corporate memory is the ability of an organisation to retain information to improve strategy, decision making, problem solving, operations and design. An organisation with low corporate memory is doomed to repeat the same mistakes and reinvent things repeatedly in a costly loop. The following are the basic components of corporate memory:-

  • The abilities and knowledge of employees. Knowledge that isn’t transferred or retained, such as tacit knowledge and situational knowledge, can be lost when people leave the organisation.
  • Data designed to be consumed by people. For example, a policy document or a training video. It is common for knowledge workers to produce copious amounts of documentation that is archived in a tool such as a knowledge management platform. It is also common for such information to go to waste or for similar documentation efforts to be repeated many times.
  • Information designed to be consumed by machine. Automation and decision support based on databases is a type of corporate memory that survives employee turnover. In some cases, replacing systems and changing processes results in data ‘going dark’.
  • Organisational Culture.The norms, habits and expectations of an organisation. As with the culture of a nation, this is rooted in history and serves as a stabilising force that doesn’t easily change.

It is probable that the Home Office is no worse (or better) than any other government department in maintaining an accurate corporate memory, but the Windrush scandal has briefly shone the spotlight in their direction, exposing some cultural and administrative issues. Readers of this post can no doubt think of many other examples, in government or their own organisations where mistakes have been repeated and lessons have not been learnt. But before we cast the shadow of blame on individual workers, it is worth reflecting on whether the underlying culture and values of the organisation have recognised the importance of corporate memory, and have invested in the policies, procedures and resources that will maintain corporate memory for future generations.

If not, we are indeed destined to forget what we already know!

Footnote

Background to Wind-rush

The arrival records of tens of thousands of Windrush generation immigrants, which dated back to the 1950s and 60s, were destroyed by the Home Office in 2010.  A person’s arrival date is crucial to citizenship application because the 1971 Immigration Act gave people who had already moved to Britain indefinite leave to remain. After the destruction of the archive, when an individual requested confirmation of an arrival date, Home Office staff advised there was no record of it.Immigration lawyers have repeatedly criticised the Home Office’s insistence that it is up to individuals to provide copious evidence proving their right to be in the UK. They have argued that If UK officials had kept a record of everyone granted indefinite leave to remain, the problem would never have arisen.

“Business archives are an essential part of our national story. Used wisely, the corporate memory can inspire, inform and innovate in today’s business.” Natalie Ceeney, ex-Chief Executive, The National Archives.

[1]The Times, Saturday 21stApril 2018.

Man vs. Machine vs. Data….?

Author: Penny Leach SLA LMD Past Chair 2017 and BIR Editorial Board Member

Please note this post contains the personal views of the author and are not connected with her employer
 

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 14th Perfect Information Conference (PIC2017) in Bath, England.  This annual event, hosted by the company Perfect Information (part of Mergermarket), brings together leaders and senior members of information services from within financial and professional service organisations with representatives of their content and service vendor partners.   The high number of repeat attendees confirms the conference’s value.  This year’s programme theme was ‘Man vs Machine: comrade or threat’.  For me (spoiler alert!) the whole event reaffirmed the current and future value and potential of humans in an increasingly technological world.

The conference programme includes keynote speakers, more practical workshops and hot topic think tanks (and of course some socialising!).  What seemed to me initially a rather disparate set of topics actually transitioned from the big picture of artificial intelligence (AI) and its future to more practical implications of change for businesses today.  Having worked myself for a short time at the (original) Turing Institute in the early days of AI, it was fascinating to hear where AI is today.

AI is all around us, was the clear answer from the three speakers who focused on this topic, respectively Marc Vollenweider (Evalueserve), Anton Fishman (Fishman & Partners) and Nicolas Bombourg (Report Linker).  Marc, who is transitioning from CEO to Chief Strategist of Evalueserve, spoke about the explosion of data sets, and the business value to be derived from cheap but effective analytic use cases.   Anton alluded to the ‘perfect storm’ of converging technologies that is affecting the world of machine learning.  Nicolas described Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) – where we are now (machines specialising in one are) – and how we are moving closer to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – machines thinking like humans – and even beyond to Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI).

Are we heading for dystopia or utopia?  There were references to sobering statistics about the predicted negative impact on job numbers, for example, Mark Carney’s speech on the  ‘hollowing out of the middle classes’ and Frey & Osborne’s research in to the future of work in the US.  Ultimately however the message was upbeat. Marc is definite that ‘insights need humans’, and has written about the benefits of combining mind+machine.  Anton referred to the opportunity for the ‘rise of humans’ that Microsoft’s Envisioning Officer has described.   The message is that technology is supporting humans, expanding our potential – AI is already invisibly enhancing our world.  This is not a zero sum game for mankind, even if it does create much management uncertainty, ethical dilemmas,  job redefinition and the need for a new ‘social contract’.

What were my key takeaways from these speakers and all the other interaction at the conference for me in my role as an information professional and services manager?

Information professionals do have roles to play in the new data economy, where the flow of data is driving innovation and growth, as long as they are open minded and upskill.  Marc has elsewhere talked about the emerging role of the information engineer in creating analytics solutions. McKinsey recently re-recognised the need for translators between technology and information, reaffirming the need to link IT, understanding of data, and business need.  Establishing the veracity of data is of course a traditional information professional skill.

Information professionals need to engage with the business, via new channels such as their workplace’s Chief Information or Data Officer (CIO, CDO) – wherever analytics are happening – and change the scope of their services to help the business build effective productivity tools and  new trigger-based workflows, and avoid data lakes that become data graveyards.

Change management is important – keeping people engaged, attracting new talent, enabling career progression, as well as ensuring effective use of the new tools and data by the business.

And for those directly engaged in buying and selling data there are reminders of the early days of the internet and outsourcing in the challenges of delivering and consuming data in new ways – for the vendors, what to build first for which client, how to protect the data, how to charge for it; for their clients where to focus efforts, who will eat the costs; and for both parties, how to deal with the increased visibility of data quality issues.

Overall the Conference ended on an optimistic note in contrast to the anxieties of the 2016 Conference (as described by in the opening session of the conference by Robin Neidorf) and inspite of the seismic political changes we have seen in the UK and USA in the last twelve months.  It will be interesting to hear how things have further changed for the attendees by the same time next year.

Let me know what you think of AI’s impact on your world.

Penny Leach

SLA LMD Past Chair 2017

New editorial board members for Business Information Review

We’re very pleased to announce that Lynn Strand and Denise Carter have joined the editorial board of Business Information Review. Both Lynn and Denise strengthen the international dimensions of the editorial board, and we’re tremendously pleased to have them involved. 

Lynn Strand is the Principal of Outside Knowledge in Minneapolis. This market intelligence practice serves clients in the technology, finance, healthcare and consumer goods industries. Lynn provides both in depth research services as well as analysis and insights to her clients. Lynn was previously with FICO, a predictive analytics company and Iconoculture, a consumer behavior insights firm. 

Lynn has been published in several information journals and was featured in SLA’s Information Outlook magazine and AIIPS’s Connections newsletter. She is currently the SLA Competitive Intelligence Division’s Chair-elect and was the SLA CID 2014 Annual Conference Planner. She also received the Division’s Outstanding New Leader Award for 2014. Additionally, Lynn is a contributor and guest editor for FreePint. Additionally, she has served SLA as a Division Chair, as a member of the 2012 Conference Advisory Committee. Lynn holds a BA in Anthropology and a Masters of Library and Information Science and executive education in Marketing. You can follow her on Twitter as @KnowledgeMama

Denise Carter is an experienced and creative information professional. She holds a Masters degree in Information Management; is a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (MCILIP); and a certified Competitive Intelligence Professional (CIP-1).  Enthusiastic for the power great knowledge and information systems can bring to a process, team or organisation, Denise has proven experience in creating and developing knowledge systems to support organizational goals and objectives.

Before setting up DCision Consult in January 2013, Denise worked for 5 years in the Global Business Intelligence department of Merck Serono, a global bio-pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland. She built and led a team: Knowledge Analytics, delivering high-quality competitive landscapes, epidemiology, and other relevant data sets, that supported commercial activities. Prior to that Denise designed and implemented a new global information unit for Serono, creating new services and resources.  She was awarded a Chief Executive Officer Award for customer service in 2006.  Denise began her career at ICI Chemicals & Polymers in the UK as a Librarian, bringing a service back in-house to support 1000 research chemists. Denise has published on different knowledge & information topics and is a speaker at international conferences. 

Both Lynn and Denise bring outstanding professional expertise to our editorial board and we’re looking forward to working with them over the coming months and years. They join our other board members who collectively have an unrivaled breadth and depth of commercial information and knowledge management practice, providing a pool of expertise on which the journal draws liberally. Our full editorial board can be found here: https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/journal/business-information-review#editorial-board. 

The first editorial board under our editorship was held in London earlier this week with members of the editorial board joining in person and via video conferencing. It was great to get some open discussions and feedback on progress so far. There were very interesting discussions around the future scope and focus on the journal which hopefully will begin to appear next year.  Updates via this blog, @BIRJournal, and our LinkedIn group.  

Scott Brown joins BIR Editorial Board

We are delighted to announce that Scott Brown has joined our Editorial Board.  He joins Martin Ainsworth, Anthony Capstick, Steve Dale, Ceri Hughes, Penny Leach, Mary Peterson and Gillian Ragsdell. 
Scott Brown is Owner of Social Information Group, an independent information practice focused on the effective use of social tools for sharing and finding information. He has over 20 years of experience across corporate settings, public and academic libraries, as well as consulting and coaching work. He has presented at a multitude of information industry conferences, and has authored books, reports, papers and articles. He is adjunct faculty at San Jose State University in California. He received his library degree from San Jose State University in California in 1999, and holds a Masters in Counseling from Regis University in Colorado.
He is well known to readers of BIR, having written three articles for us since we joined as Editors. 
  • Mobile apps: Which ones really matter to the information professional?, Scott Brown, Business Information Review, December 2012; vol. 29, 4: pp. 231-237.
  • Coping with information obesity: A diet for information professionals, Scott Brown, Business Information Review, September 2012; vol. 29, 3: pp. 168-173.
  • Social media for company research: A few of the best tools, Scott Brown,  Business Information Review, September 2011; vol. 28, 3: pp. 163-174

An announcement about our Editorial Advisory Board

Veronica Kennard retires; several new members join

Following Veronica’s retirement as Director of Information at Rothschild, she has decided to retire from the Editorial Board.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her involvement with BIR over many years and to wish her well for the future.  Veronica ran the information department at Rothschild from 1991 till the end of 2013 and was acknowledged as a leading information professional in the Finance sector.  Business information has been her focus since her postgraduate diploma in Information Science gained at City University.  Her breadth of experience at the London Business School and in the corporate sector with Bain and Company and Goldman Sachs gave her a unique perspective on the content direction and the range of topics that we cover and we truly appreciate her contribution.     

We are delighted to welcome the following people to our Editorial Advisory Board Team:

  • Steve Dale (Collabor8now)
  • Ceri Hughes (KPMG)
  • Mary Peterson (South Australia Health Library Service
  • Stephen Phillips (Morgan Stanley)
  • Gillian Ragsdell (Loughborough University)

They join our existing Board members Martin Ainsworth, Anthony Capstick and Penny Leach and our colleague Allan Foster (who writes our regular Initiatives column as well as the annual Survey.

We look forward to working with all of them this year.

BIR March 2010

Just over four months ago, as the newly appointed editors of BIR, we attended our first editorial meeting with the good folks at Sage. We knew we were taking over an already established and successful journal that had benefitted from great editors and contributors. We were nervous – but excited!

We have many people to thank for their patient guidance, including Gwenda Sippings the previous editor who was consistently helpful through the handover process – and beyond; Caroline and Vijay at Sage who provided advice and support throughout and Allan Foster who ensured we benefitted from his 20+ years of experience contributing to the journal. Our editorial board members continue to provide expertise and content advice.

With the help of all these people, not to mention the contributors, our first issue as editors (volume 27/1) is now published! The table of contents is available here.