Last week a joint report between the Financial Times and SLA was released: The evolving value of information management: and the five essential attributes of the modern information professional (free download with registration).
The report delves into changes in the work of information professionals, change in what executives believe information professionals should be doing, and any gaps between these perceptions. It then provides changes that information professionals should be considering and specific action items to achieve these.
From the introduction:
We encourage information professionals to question how the strategies in this report can assist you in enhancing the value you offer. We encourage executives to use the report to explore how to increase productivity through better use of information. Case studies are presented to help you work with information professionals and use their skills to maximise your organisation’s potential.
From the Executive Summary:
While this research identifies and acknowledges both the threats and challenges that face information professionals, we also uncover unprecedented opportunities. In a knowledge economy swirling with bewildering amounts of data – of varying quality – and with ever more powerful data systems and tools developing every year, now is the time for the information profession to reach for new heights
From the report — on the risk of using Google in place of an information professional:
Information professionals need to make sure that organisational leaders understand the risk, and eventual impact, of bad information, and the vast gulf between amateur Internet searching and the services of a trained information professional equipped with quality tools. As one respondent puts it, the profession needs to fight for “recognition that even with the Internet, librarians are still necessary; maybe even more necessary than ever.”
– on the need for more strategic thinking by information professionals:
Since then, however, a fundamental shift has occurred. The most important aspects today involve greater integration with the business and a move from just making information available to ensuring that it is immediately usable. Having a deep understanding of why information is needed, how it will be used and how the business works is now key, as is the ability to engage and communicate with other parts of the business. Technical skills, while still important, are now a baseline prerequisite onto which information professionals must now build teamwork, initiative and more strategic thinking.
– on what the report calls the “five essential attributes of the modern information professional” (although these are more actions or directives than attributes):
1. Communicate your value –
Information professionals also need to become more integrated into the business. If many departments do not understand what information services do (or could do) it is not their fault. Information professionals need to take responsibility for communicating with the wider organisation. They should be networking, staying on the pulse of the business and seeking out new opportunities to make a contribution.
To truly demonstrate value, information professionals need to get close to the business and forge strong relationships with users, effectively creating a continuous forum of communication.
2. Understand the drivers
Information professionals should have a deep understanding of why a certain individual wants information, be aware of why it is needed, and know how to best capture and deliver it. By doing this, information professionals move from simply passing on data to providing insights that can immediately drive actions.
As information management welcomes new backgrounds, hybrids and translators, there is also an increasing trend towards decentralised knowledge functions. Knowledge professionals are increasingly being integrated into the teams that use their information. This is a world away from the siloed library-like departments of the past.
3. Manage the process
Today’s information professionals need to do more work, deliver it faster and get by on leaner budgets and smaller teams. They also exist in new contexts, where professionals manage a mix of internally captured data, internally researched data and external information services. Many also manage external professionals who contribute to the team under an outsourcing arrangement. The only way to manage the complexity and the workload is to make greater use of project management techniques and technology to achieve greater productivity.
4. Keep up on technical skills
In an era when database management seems secondary to relationship management, information professionals should take heart from the fact their core day to day skills have not changed. What is different are the tools involved: “The environment has changed in terms of what you’re organising,” says Mr Lee [Daniel Lee of PwC Canada]. “I organise pieces of electronic content now, I don’t organise a shelf of books. It’s the same thing – it’s just I’m applying it to a different area.”
5. Provide decision-ready information
The top three information related challenges for executives concern the “relevancy of information,” “having to sift through information” and “information overload.” The common thread through all of these is that the information they receive is not ‘decision ready’. In other words, executives have to spend valuable time trying to get the cup they need from the flood provided. Information providers need to understand that a big part of the value they provide is in turning the deluge of data into succinct, high-quality, current, on-message information.