The Evolving Value of Information Management
And Five Essential Attributes of the Modern Information Professional
This report is the result of a research study commissioned by both the Financial Times and the Special Libraries Association (SLA), to explore the evolving value of information management in today’s society. I was fortunate to participate in the development of this piece of thought leadership, helping to scope it and participating in a panel discussion of the preliminary results at the 2013 Annual Conference of the Special Libraries Association in San Diego, California, June 9-11, 2013.
This report explores the challenges and opportunities of this modern day knowledge specialist, working in times of widespread budget austerity, while evolving the value they provide to organisations. Big data and smarter technology can make today’s information professional more influential than ever, but the free availability of information is sometimes a threat. No longer data gatekeepers, information professionals must work hard to demonstrate their value in new ways. Doing this means making a fundamental shift from isolated, technical expert to multi-skilled team member, enabling decisions and proactively integrating into the organisation.
Some key themes emerged from the survey data and in-depth interviews which underpin this report:
- What worries knowledge providers most is that an increasing number of their colleagues are bypassing them and accessing the information they need directly (e.g. using Google). Apart from undermining information professionals, this creates significant organisational risk. The second major, but related, challenge for information professionals is demonstrating their value to the business. Many are also struggling to meet organisational expectations in an environment of declines in budget, IT investment and headcount.
- Information users (e.g. executives) suffer from information overload. Their challenge is a perceived lack of up-to-date, relevant, decision-ready information, delivered quickly enough for them to make use of it.
- The majority of knowledge providers currently overestimate the level of value they provide. Overall, 55% of knowledge providers say they add “a lot of value”, yet only 34% of executives are willing to say the same of them.
- But executives appear more ready than ever to engage with information professionals. Some 49% of information users expect the level of interaction and engagement between knowledge providers and senior management to increase in the next three years.
- One key way in which this engagement is set to increase is through the use of “embedded” information professionals. This will see information departments shrink or disappear, but will also dismantle many organisational barriers. Rather than being siloed in libraries, information professionals will become team members within departments that were once internal customers.
- Communication, understanding and decision-ready information are rated (by all respondents) as the most important attributes for modern information professionals. They are also among the areas with the largest shortfalls in performance ratings between users and providers, so information professionals should focus on improving these attributes above all others.
The report also describes five essential attributes for modern information professionals to strive for:
- Communicate your value
- Understand the drivers
- Manage the process
- Keep up on technical skills
- Provide decision-ready information
I would be curious to hear from other knowledge and information professionals with their opinions and reactions to the report!