On June 21, Ulla de Stricker will share her advice for information managers (IMs) in the webinar “Capturing and communicating the value of information management services in a corporate culture” (REGISTER for the webinar). We posed a few questions about the current challenges faced by IMs at corporate organizations relating to understanding and communicating the value of the services they provide.
What are the top 3 challenges IMs face daily?
In consulting, my experience has been that the top 3 are all related to organizational culture.
- When a corporate culture supports the notion that everyone (say, as a result of having gone to graduate school) is a qualified researcher, the need for specialized information skills may be lost on decision makers.
- When the culture lacks insight into the difference between qualified and questionable information sources, it is no surprise there's a perception that the librarian (or IM) is an expensive relic from the past.
- When no one has specific responsibility for how knowledge is captured, kept, made available and shared, the IM's special qualifications will likely go unnoticed while subject matter experts fend for themselves and ask colleagues for help when they're stuck.
With information all around us, the organization evolves to treat information as a form of oxygen and asks: Why would we pay for specialists to mind the air? Only in the worst "pollution scenarios" would that become relevant. Such a mindset is particularly prevalent in organizations where much of the workforce has never experienced a time when information was not readily available.
I would sum up the challenges faced by IMs in corporate environments this way: If intellectual workers have never known what it's like to work with an information specialist, they have no way of knowing the benefits and therefore lack motivation to ask for one.
What are some reasons why info pros are finding it difficult to convey their value to their corporate stakeholders?
A key difficulty in conveying one's own value is related to a perception that the communication is self serving, aimed at protecting our positions. (In the webinar we'll discuss how to overcome that perception.)
A second contributing factor is the paradox of "But we're doing well, aren't we?" Without calamity looming, the inducement to institute and follow good information management practices is lacking. Efforts on the part of the IM to engage the intellectual workers in a conversation about information management opportunities may be dismissed as unwelcome interruptions. Good knowledge practices, unlike appropriate legal diligence, do not enjoy a pre-existing acceptance and understanding of the reason why they are necessary. Everyone instinctively understands the consequences of actions carrying significant risk, so the lawyers in the legal department are sought out as a matter of course. Everyone accepts the need for accountants — the organization couldn't function without them. Information managers? Not so much.
Librarians and IMs globally are coming under intense pressure to reduce (and defend) their budgets. In your experience, what are the key reasons for that?
The need to defend budgets and manage on ever smaller budgets are symptoms of the organization’s culture. Organizations do not question the cost of doing business associated with, say, equipping employees with mobile devices. Decision makers who sign off on budgets connect the expense to a perceived value: It is a benefit to the business that employees can be reached at all hours of the day anywhere they may be, and it is a benefit that workers can work anywhere.
Paying for information management (staff and content), on the other hand, may be regarded in a different light and thought of as a just-in-case or nice-to-have service. Also, senior executives may be unfamiliar with the realities of pricing in the professional publishing industry and be unaware of the nature of the interaction between the IM and the business teams. Our task here is to connect the IM expense to the “business of the business" in ways managers understand readily, and that is a key aspect of our discussion in June.
What are some best practices you will share in the webinar to help IMs better identify, capture and share their value within corporate environments?
I'm grateful for the opportunity to discuss how IMs can communicate their value in ways that are professional and comfortable. My central message is that strong relationships with the business teams are the foundation for building an organizational awareness of the true contribution made by the IM or information management team. IMs may express concern that outreach would be seen as an intrusion; I will discuss strategies to help IMs move beyond such an impasse.
IMs must communicate their value with impact measurements to go with the usage measurements. The latter in themselves are inadequate as value indicators; the effective story to tell is the one dealing with business outcomes resulting from the IM's work (be that reactive service or proactive consultation). Webinar attendees will come away with insight into relationship management, impact clarification, and the art of demonstrating value to stakeholders by tracking business outcomes from the application of information services.
Interested in learning more about how to better understand and demonstrate your value? Sign up for the webinar on June 21.