Tag 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.

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 into the information and knowledge profession now open

The BIR annual survey now in its 28th year, has just opened for this year.  The survey provides a look inside the library, information and knowledge profession, highlighting key trends and changes that have taken place over the last 12 months.

The survey is run by Denise Carter, the Managing Director of DCision Consult, a competitive intelligence & business analytics service provider to the pharmaceutical & bio- technology industries. She has 30 years of experience working in the library and information management sectors.

The e Survey is open now just click this link to contribute and give your opinion https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BIRsurvey18 The survey is complemented by 30 minute interviews for those who wish to take part further.  These interviews, conducted by Denise are highly confidential in nature.   The resulting report does not identify any one person or company.

The report will be published in September’s Business Information Review.

Information Professionals Are Fantastic! – My Key Take Away from the 2017 Business Information Survey

Denise Carter, DCision Consult

I’ve just spent part of my Sunday afternoon sitting in the garden in the sunshine reading a book about conducting systematic reviews, an exercise I did for pleasure and which I enjoyed because a) I joined the dots on a few separate pieces of information I already knew and b) I learnt new things.

After just over thirty years of working in information I’m happy to say to that I still find information as interesting today as I did when I started out, and I still love learning more.  That’s why I find it also such a pleasure to conduct the primary interviews for the Annual Business Information Survey. The overwhelming majority of the interviewees have been working for more than a few years for their organisations, and I am continually struck by their continued enthusiasm both for their current roles but also for the wider knowledge and information disciplines. That is a truism across all the different industries.

I have seen myself when I was an information manager for a pharmaceutical company,  in an industry where staff turnover was particularly high it was certainly true that in our company those working in information roles were all long-serving employees – 15-20 years being a good average. Information was not high on the organisation agenda – when our company was acquired by another the information units were not assigned to any of the acquisition work streams that were deemed critical by the senior management to ensure that the company remain efficient during the acquisition process.  What I saw however was all of us with information roles who already had developed an informal working relationship in our original company, join together and take the initiative to reach out to our counterparts in the new organisation and propose solutions to issues the company had failed to recognise, and also to start to explore the new organisation and understand the new opportunities that may provide us.  I also witnessed people on much higher pay grades than myself and my colleagues halt projects, delay decisions because “no-one had told them what they should do” because their reporting structures were disrupted and they were temporarily without a “boss”.

Conducting the interviews I see very clearly that commitment to the organisation and the strategic objectives of the organisation is common across all information professionals.   They are completely committed to the work they do, convinced of it’s value and full of creative ideas of what else they could add or do.

One of the interviewees in this year’s survey spoke of the particular challenge of a corporate merger and the company splitting into three business strands, and the potential concern that their team may get assigned to one strand only rather than providing a service to the whole organisation.   They wanted to make sure they remained central to the activities and but knew they wouldn’t get any more resources but their answer was simply to “get on with it and do it”.

The 2017 Business Information Survey contains many such examples of the dedication and professionalism of the information professional.  We as a profession need to get better at letting people know how great we are. I’m hoping this year’s survey is a contribution to that effort.

Business Information Review Survey part 2 – Communicating Value

Successful strategies employed for measuring and communicating value (up, down and across organisations) is the second theme our survey has uncovered this year.  It follows on from the importance of demonstrating value and is a key step in ensuring that value is positively impactful on the organization.  It is well known that in the fight for funding to maintain information surveys and continue knowledge sharing projects the information and  knowledge team must be able to show value to the organization.  In the past this has been a need to provide return on investment proof however, as we have seen from our first theme, providing value is seen as more than just a measurement of value against cost.

When working with organisations I have deployed projects that have gathered case study evidence, provided cost saving services, utlised methods such as the creation and development of expert networks to gather knowledge and expertise quickly for the right project.  Depending on the organization concerned different strategies were more successful than others.  Organisational culture, situation, management teams and past experiences using services from the information and knowledge team by executives and employees all had an impact on what would work well and what wouldn’t.  Getting people’s buy-in to projects top up and bottom down through successful communication of why the project or initiative was important was a very important success factor in ensuring the project or initiative was successful.  Communication tools used included promotional messages around the organization from ‘Q and A’ meetings to posters and email campaigns and demonstrations of value.  Methods used depended on the situation, particular initiative and required impact, how far communication needed to reach to be impactful in the organization etc.

Our survey this year examined a number of different communication methods and how they have been used successfully.  It was clear that there is a place for all communication methods but that depending on the situation, person or group to be communicated to different methods have differing success rates.  There is a clear need for electronic and traditional communication methods especially face to face communication.

Read more on this and discover the detail in the 2017 survey in September’s issue.