First steps in Information Management: new tools from CILIP

Sandra Ward is Principal Consultant at Beaworthy Consulting and a member of CILIP’s Information Management Project Board. She blogs here about two new information management tools, created by the Project Board, to help organisations create information management policies: 

Opportunities to work in Information Management are increasing.  Whilst CILIP recognises that many members spend much of their career working in the field of library and collection management, I want to encourage you to explore careers in the wider discipline of Information Management (IM).  

The field is now highly competitive with IT and business experts moving into IM roles but our professional skills are both relevant and essential in delivering an effective IM programme.  

IM takes you to the heart of an organisation.  Roles encompass management and development of hard copy and digital information resources - both internal and third party, published information.  Ensuring the accessibility of this information is now a critical responsibility. Helping mobilise the information ‘engine’ that powers organisations provides staff with the tools for effective operation and informed innovation.

These roles are essential to all organisations, and especially valuable if undertaken within a clear information policy framework.

About the tools

In order to stimulate your interest, CILIP has developed two tools to help you get started and move forward in IM:

The Policy framework sets out the key components needed to make information management work in an organisation.

It provides a concise list of elements that together will make a coherent IM policy. It points out the need for championship and advocacy at senior levels and provides strategies for convincing your leadership that IM action is needed. It outlines the IM responsibilities of staff, functions and management teams. The template is a crisp presentation of an IM policy and IM responsibilities.

Both are there to be used and tested – and for you to provide feedback on their relevance and value.  In their development a fair number of experts were consulted but we regard these as living documents that need to reflect current experience.

Why do I feel passionate about information management?

Well, IM has been core to my career since its start. In the 70’s my team was feeling its way forward. Luckily so was everyone else and we bounced around our ideas and freely discussed wins and setbacks. IT tools for information handling were in their infancy.  Few others in our organisation were switched on to computerised power.  

This meant that our interest in making our working lives smarter and in realising more potential from company information and published information than could ever be achieved with manual indexing of paper records, quickly found support. As systems for managing internal data and documents evolved, we saw further opportunities to deliver value and grow our expertise. Life was never dull.  

Why is information management important today?

Today, the ubiquity of electronic information means everyone is involved – and everyone thinks they know how to manage it! This is partly true – but at an organisational level, personal independence of action falls over.

Policies and strategies are needed to reliably deliver quality of information and ease of access, as well as the consistency of information structure and metadata needed for accurate big data analyses. Without these strategies, policies and operational frameworks, organisations face a self-limiting future. Whether you describe this as working with ‘one hand tied behind our back’ or ‘shackles around the ankles’, the impact is the same: an inability to innovate and compete successfully in an increasingly pressured world.  

If you don’t know what you know and don’t have the talent to exploit it, how can you sense important change and respond to it? 

Consider the investment your organisation is making into managing information – IT systems; content creation and management in projects, functions, teams; training in information skills; CRM; records management, archives and so on. What is the  return on that investment?  If it is not a positive figure, do you know why?  Silos, a confusion of documents that appear similar, inaccurate reports that should have been discarded, duplication of content effort, email mountains are all common problems.  

As someone who is passionate about the opportunities for library and information science folk to contribute information management skills to their organisation, I look out for relevant job adverts.

I am encouraged by the small but steady flow from public and private sector organisations that have recognised IM as an imperative activity.  A recent advert neatly encompasses the tremendous responsibility IM folk take on:    

“Our information management team enables us to operate effectively. Ensuring that all information is managed and protected to meet the needs of our corporate and operational teams, they enable the efficient and effective exploitation of data. They also play a large part in training and guiding our people to ensure they understand their role and responsibilities for managing information”. 

I’ve never regretted making IM my career path and, luckily, I’ve been able to work with internal and published information. I would encourage you to seriously consider the opportunities to repurpose your skills to support your organisation’s IM efforts. Our skills are highly relevant and may help you reposition your role to create and deliver more value for your current and future employers.

What do you think of the tools? What have your experiences being of implementing an information management policy?

Let us know in the comments


Image source: "Social Media Information Overload" by intersectionconsulting, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / original has been modified to extend it and resized


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