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Towards a Rosetta Stone for translating data between information systems

The BusinessInformation Review blog will be taking a short break over the Christmas period. In the meantime we thought it would be good to share one of the articles that appeared in December’s edition of the journal.

One of the key problems of managing information assets within organisational contexts it dealing with the problem of legacy systems and legacy information. On the one hand this is a technological issue: approaches to information management change over time and the tools improve, such that information sets become subject to uses which were never anticipated. But on the other hand, more often than not the problems posed by legacy systems is less to do with their technological underpinning than with the way in which data has been structured and ordered. The choices developers make when encoding information within database systems in particular – including the range of information that they choose to encode – can have long lasting effects on the subsequent exploitation of that data. Managing legacy information systems often then becomes a problem of data migration.

Morton et al’s outstanding paper in December’s Business Information Review tackles this problem, and explores the possibility of a Rosetta Stone approach to legacy data migration – an open-source project to ‘translate’ data between information systems. We’re making it free for a short period through this blog. The abstract is as follows:

Information systems are an important organizational asset and offer numerous benefits. However, organizations face continued challenges when upgrading ageing information systems, and the data contained within, to newer platforms. This article explores, through conversations with information systems professionals in four organizations, the potential development of a ‘Rosetta Stone’, which can translate data between systems and be used to help overcome various challenges associated with their modernization. Despite mixed feedback regarding the Rosetta Stone concept from interviewees, solutions highlighted in literature combined with participant feedback presented theories for its development, primarily as a tool to enable meaningful interpretation of data, rather than direct translation. The conclusion reflects on data collected to recommend a framework for how the tool might be developed and has the potential to be of significant interest to practitioners, open-source communities and organizations.

To access the paper, simple follow the link below. The paper will be free via this blog until the end of January. Keep an eye on this blog for more free content from Business Information Review in the future.

The importance of speaking up

I reviewed an article recently on communication and the effects of employees speaking up on managerial style and company communication flow. It was an interesting article, which although only focussing on Asian companies, illustrated a number of important lessons including the implications not just for managerial style and management skills but also I felt on knowledge sharing within organisations.

Knowledge sharing is a part of the much larger continuous learning cycle – learn before, during and after doing. This itself relies on a willingness and freedom to communicate, something that the study above shows is an increasingly complex task particularly in large multi-national organisations.

It reminds me of a project I worked on for an organisation about 12 months ago helping them to develop a learning programme that would be deployed globally and taught through e learning and virtual learning. The method of deployment relied heavily on participants to proactively communicate freely, effectively sometimes in a language that was not their mother tongue.

We found that the most effective way to encourage communication was through development of a learning charter that everyone (students and teachers alike) agreed to before commencement of the programme. The learning charter set out a set of guidelines for behaviour, interaction, time keeping and consideration of others. It was the basis for developing an open environment where inPiduals felt they were able to express themselves and would be listened to and where there was no fear of repercussion for getting something wrong. In addition to the learning charter, part of the success of the programme was getting the ‘teachers’ to develop a consultative coaching style to provide flexibility in the programme – giving more time and encouragement to those that needed it. The programme was so effective that within six months of launch it had a waiting list of participants.

We hope to be covering more on communication, learning and associated KM techniques in later issues. We would be keen to hear of your experiences.

Knowledge Management – Don’t Forget The SME’s!

Guest blog post by Stephen Dale of Business Information Review Editorial Board

The research paper by Cheng Sheng Lee and Kuan Yew Wong in the December of issue of Business Information Review raises a number of interesting points that deserve wider discussion. The research focused on the effectiveness of knowledge management techniques in Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s) in Malaysia. Though the scope of the research is limited to one geographic region, the findings could – and should – be tested against a wider and more international cohort.

According to the research paper, in Malaysia, SME’s account for up to 98.5 percent of the total number of businesses and contribute up to 33.1 percent of GDP. They employ 57.5 percent of the total workforce.

To offer some comparison, UK, SME’s account for over 99.8 percent of the total number of businesses, they contributed over half of UK outputin 2013 (GVA) and employ 48 percent of the total private sector workforce. The EU average SME contribution to GDP is 55 percent.

It is clear from this data that SME’s make up a significant, and growing, contribution to the UK and European economies. It seems quite odd, therefore, that so little research has been undertaken into how knowledge management strategies and techniques have been utilized within and across this sector.

The Cheng Sheng Lee/Kuan Yew Wong research gives us some insights that could be tested against a wider geographic sample of SMEs. Some key points from the research as follows:

The literature research identified that the size of an organization affects its behaviour and structure (Edvardsson, 2006; Rutherford et al, 2001) and how it influences the adoption and implementation of KM (Zaied et al, 2012).

SME’s should not be perceived as homogenized groups. They themselves can be categorized according to relative size, e.g. micro, small and medium, which can influence the way that KM is implemented.

In terms of human capital, medium-sized businesses (SMEs) focus more on codification strategies (explicit knowledge) whereas micro-sized businesses (SMEs) are more dependent on socialization strategies.

An obvious point, but reinforced by the research – the need for better infrastructure, such as tools, office layout, rooms etc. increases as the organizations grows.

Knowledge Maturity is a key attribute that should be monitored measured. The value of an employee will increase in terms of their contribution to the success of the organization as they progress from beginner, intermediate and advanced staged of KM maturity. Clearly the impact of an employee leaving without an effective knowledge transfer process will be more keenly felt by a small organization. [NB. This is not an excuse for large organizations to treat this is a lower priority!]

Company size does make a difference to KM performance measurements. A number of factors are proposed, e.g. impact of high turnover, limited resource redundancy in smaller organizations, smaller organizations will likely prioritize implementation processes over performance measurements etc.

KM performance measurement (KMPM) is still new for SME’s, as the majority of analyst reports and case studies remain focused on large organizations, with a mindset that SMEs do not need or are not ready for KMPM.

Overall, this is an excellent piece of research, and highly recommended reading, which despite it’s limited sample size and geographic boundary, gives some very useful insight into how KM is being implemented across SME’s. Reassuringly it shows that a growing number of SME’s see KMPM as vital to the growth and success of their business.

The paper is also a wake-up call to academia, research, analyst and consultancy organizations in that we need for more definitive and comprehensive studies in this field, to embrace UK, Europe and other key industrial and economic zones.

To finish with a quote from the authors: “Enough with large organizations; SMEs should not be neglected as they play a major role in a country’s economic growth”. Who could disagree?

December’s Business Information Review

Our latest issue is now out online and I thought it would be useful to take a quick look at it. The articles are an eclectic mix of topics, covering a lot of ground from knowledge management (KM), to information asset management, professional development to information systems transition. Below is a short overview of what you can expect.

KM performance measures: Cheng Sheng Lee and Kuan Yew Wong from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia take a look at knowledge management performance measures in micro-sized, small and medium-sized enterprises. Professional knowledge is often associated with large companies and organizations, who generally have the resources to develop effective KM strategies utilizing a host of techniques and who stand to get the most out of tacit knowledge. But what of small to medium sized organizations? Is KM a useless concept? Lee and Wong investigated organizations in Malaysia and found there were definite benefits for smaller organizations in utilizing KM techniques.

Why is information the elephant asset? Reynold Leming discusses the importance of treating information as any other business asset, utilizing asset management techniques. He highlights how asset management has often disregarded information from its remit and sets out a clear and extremely useful approach for developing an Information Asset Register.

Towards a Rosetta Stone: Managing legacy systems and migrating information and data is very much an issue in most organizations. Morton, Beckford and Cooke of Loughborough University present their research on the possibility of creating a ‘Rosetta Stone’ to facilitate this process.

Developing your career in information: Both for those just starting out and for the more seasoned professional, this article by Victoria Sculfor, Sue Hill and TFPL Recruitment, discusses professional development, the importance of networking on and off line. It covers all aspects of career development and contains some useful links to helpful resources.

Developing and implementing policy: Another returning author, Danny Budzak takes a look at a continuing concern of many organizations: developing and implementing information policy. Drawing on his professional experience, he looks at what to consider to develop and implement an effective information policy that all areas of the organization buy into.

Also returning in the December issue are Martin White’s Perspectives column and Allan Foster’s Initiatives colum.  Our regular columnists Martin White and Allan Foster return looking at a range of issues from the effects of language and global organizations to the latest in IT and Technology related to information management issues, big data, open data and big data analytics. We hope you enjoy reading!


BvD releases updated Orbis

Business information publisher Bureau van Dijk (BvD) has released an updated version of Orbis, the company database. 

Orbis contains information on over 100 million companies from around the world sourced from more than 100 information providers.  
Enhancements include the addition of over 11,000 CICI (company identifier) numbers; and two additional measures of financial strength and user access to additional original documents.

More information via Information World Review.

When David met Victoria: Forging a strong family brand

SAGE Insight | September 13, 2011 at 8:00 am | Tags: branding, entertainment industry, familiness, qualitative analysis, The Beckhams | Categories: Business & Management | URL:

See a fascinating piece of research on understanding the features that make a family brand work for free. This article seeks to understand how distinctive family brands are created. Recent studies in family business have focused on the benefits for a firm to be known as family owned or family controlled. And if you’re interested in developing your personal brand, look at BIR,2010, 27/1 for Rob Brown/s article on reputation management.

Librarians and library users raise their Voices for Libraries – a campaign worth considering

Blog readers can hardly have failed to notice media coverage of the threat of drastic cuts to public library services across the UK. Voices for the Library intends to ensure that the voices of the people who are library users and library professionals and who understand the real value of public libraries are heard.

By setting up a campaigning website to share positive stories from public libraries and librarians, the campaign aims to illustrate the importance of services, why it is vital that they are run well, and how they serve their communities effectively. So if you use a public library and are convinced of their value as local gateways to knowledge, a basis for lifelong learning, as resource providers for independent decision-making and cultural development of individuals and social groups. Do contact them if you have a postitive story to tell – and encourage others to do so.

CILIP has a sector panel which is aiming to communicate the value of information services and libraries in the health, government, commercial and industrial sectors, contact