Last week I spent an extremely informative day at the Perfect Information Conference 2016, which this year focused on “the future of information”. Alongside Sarah Fahy, Global Head of Library Services at Allen & Overy, and Anneli Carter, Executive, MarCap Research at Macquarie Capital, I had the pleasure of sitting on the panel for one of the keynote sessions – “Building a future for the information and knowledge industry and its members” – in which we discussed the issues facing the industry and how information professionals can best equip themselves for success in the face of an ever-evolving landscape.
The world of information services is a very different place to what it was in the early 2000s. The industry underwent a massive change 5-6 years ago when a lot of resources were moved offshore from the UK, which meant that information teams suddenly required very different skillsets – such as the ability to project manage or understand how to maximise business efficiencies. The advance of technology and the widespread adoption of big data has also placed more autonomy in the hands of the end user, as desktop research becomes more proficient.
The fact is, the information industry has to adapt and refocus itself to fit with what the world now looks like. During the session, we discussed what we like to call “the three-legged stool of information expertise” – the three legs being sources, technology and value. These have always been at the core of information services and will continue to remain so; the issue now is working out how to apply these existing skillsets to the future and use them in different contexts and in different ways. For instance, while source expertise may now predominantly lie in product testing and recommendations, the emphasis may move to data vetting and advice on licensing. Similarly, technology will have a new focus in the future but will require the same set of skills that information professionals have been cultivating all along.
It’s important to remember that while information and data may be everywhere, that doesn’t mean that people can necessarily tell how good the data they are using actually is; information professionals can not only verify data, but also identify what third party data can bolster their internal records – and that’s a valuable skill at a time when many institutions (particularly in the banking sector) are implementing Master Data Management systems. Different departments all have different ideas of what constitutes “valuable” information and it is the information team that serves as the connector that enables them to discuss their requirements in the same language. As the people responsible for identifying the most effective products on the market and joining up data solutions across an organisation’s various functions, knowledge professionals are effectively becoming master data managers.
At Avention, we work with a lot of information teams across numerous organisations and the ones doing well are the ones that work collaboratively. I so often see instances where departments are not working together and this is where projects go wrong. Information professionals need to build deep, meaningful peer-to-peer relationships across all the key departments in order to develop a more interactive way of working. It is only by working closely with the rest of the organisation that information professionals will be able to build for the future, since the key lies in not just thinking about the service that is being offered today, but to consider the role information will play in helping the business achieve its strategic objectives in the future.
There is a huge amount of value in what information professionals do, but they need to start shouting about it! There is no doubt that the role of the information professional is changing, but with change comes opportunity. As relationships continue to shift from transactional to strategic, information teams need to prioritise advocacy and collaboration in order to embed their value throughout the organisation.