The world of corporate information services is changing fast. Alongside the challenges of information governance and increased regulation, more and more companies are looking to unlock the value of their knowledge and information assets in increasingly competitive markets. At the same time, pressure on budgets means that information professionals need to be able to demonstrate exactly how they are adding value to the bottom-line of their organisation.
With this in mind, CILIP teamed up with the CILIP Corporate, Legal and Scientific Information Group (CLSIG) and SLA Europe to carry out a time-limited research project to get a better sense of how information professionals in corporate environments are successfully building that case for support.
The findings – summarised in the Slideshare below – make for fascinating reading. Of the 48 leading companies that completed our survey, 57% (28) provide information services to a global clientele, often in multiple languages. Rather than being situated in any one part of their organisational structure, they’re embedded across a wide range of business functions including IT, Personnel and Research & Development. They’re also delivering an increasingly diverse range of services from acquisitions and licensing to archiving, current awareness and recruitment support.
Working with CLSIG and the SLA, CILIP reached out to companies across all industry sectors. Of the 48 that responded, 86% (42) were based in England, with the remainder based (primarily) overseas, albeit with UK offices. Sadly, we weren’t able to secure responses from companies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and this is definitely something we would like to correct in the next iteration of this research. Other facts and figures include:
- 22% of our survey group had 5000+ employees (58% between 500-4999 employees)
- In all, the survey sample represented 12 industry sectors
- The top 3 sectors (by number of responses) were Legal Services, Professional Services and Energy Supply
The majority of responses (19% of the total) came from the Legal Services sector.
The survey findings indicate that Information Services in corporate environments provide a common core of services alongside additional services that are highly context-sensitive.
72% of our survey sample provide Research services. 67% lead on content acquisition and licensing for their organisation and 62% provide Knowledge and Information Management. Alongside this, there is clear evidence of a move towards providing business insight and intelligence. A significant proportion of our respondents, for example, are providing ‘current awareness’ services including market and competitor analysis.
Perhaps surprisingly, a relatively small proportion of our survey sample (23%) said they currently supported activities related to information governance. However, comments from a significant number of respondents indicated that they expect this to grow as a proportion of their activity in the future.
Other examples are more specific. As an example, one Information Service that responded provides Quality and Environmental Management data as part of their wider service offering and several are involved in supporting recruitment, selection and induction activities.
Another interesting finding is that Information Services within our survey sample are increasingly being ‘offered out’ to clients of their company as an added-value service. This seems from our data particularly to be the case in Legal and Professional Services.
Embedding Information Services into the organisational structure
Our survey posed a series of questions about how the Information Service is perceived and where it ‘sits’ in terms of the organisation’s overall structure and hierarchy.
Encouragingly, responses indicated that levels of awareness of and engagement with Information Services in corporate environments are relatively high, with 9.5% of our respondents characterising awareness of the service as ‘Excellent’ and 52% as ‘Good’. By the same token 5% said that engagement with the service is ‘Excellent’ and 52% as ‘Good’. Only 2 respondents said that engagement with their service was ‘Poor’.
In terms of line-management, findings were similarly encouraging. In 17% of cases in our sample, the Head of Information Services (or equivalent) reports directly to the Board and in 15% of cases to the Managing Director or a Senior Partner – indicating a relatively high degree of senior buy-in to the service. 46% report to Middle Management, with the remainder either forming part of an outsourced function or an independent consultant.
The survey gave a clear indication that there is no ‘standard’ place in the organisational structure into which the Information Service naturally fits. Across 48 responses, we found around 14 different variants of ‘location’ within the organisational structure including IT, Policy, Business and Support Services, in-house Risk and Governance teams, HR and Marketing. In a sense this feels not dissimilar to the early days of embedding ‘Digital‘ into organisations, whereby different companies saw it occupying different integrated roles across their structure. Most commonly in our sample, Information Services were embedded alongside IT, but this was by no means a majority
We also asked about the expected level of qualifications for information professionals working in corporate Information Services and found that 70% of the employers represented in our survey sample support CILIP-Accredited qualifications for staff and 55% expect their staff to hold an accredited LIS qualification or professional registration.
Advocating for corporate Information Services
Our questions relating to the ways in which information professionals are advocating for the value and impact of their services revealed some really important and exciting work.
In terms of the metrics people are using for advocacy, the focus is still very much on quantitative measures such as the usage of electronic resources (78% of respondents), the number of enquiries answered (also 78%), number of ‘active users’ (49%) and even ‘book issues’ (35%).
However, there is also a marked trend towards using qualitative and financial metrics to argue for the service. For example, 55% of respondents now report on ‘contribution to corporate goals’ as well as financial value (increased efficiency or contribution to revenue-generation), value-added for internal stakeholders and value-added for clients and shareholders.
The survey also found information professionals undertaking a very wide range of ‘advocacy’ activities with the aim of securing buy-in to and engagement with their service. Examples include attending meetings, organising and participating in events, collaborating on projects, supporting induction training and highlighting relevant content and resources via email. The main activities which Information Services planned to engage with in the next 12 months were providing metrics and impact data for Annual Reports. The main activity which the Information Services in our survey have stopped supporting is internal reading groups.
Interesting, we asked which technologies information professionals are using to share information about their work with internal stakeholders – really expecting the use of intranets and in-house social platforms. While these did feature in a limited way, the primary and most effective technology for internal communications and advocacy is email!
Finally, we asked respondents to share their ‘one lesson’ for effective advocacy for corporate Information Services. The answers provided really valuable insight into the vital role of visibility and relationship-building to securing ongoing support:
1. Demonstrate how much the service is used
2. Collaborate with other teams
3. Be consistent in order to build trust
4. Nurture relationships with champions/advocates
5. Share your expertise in communities of practice
6. Contribute to impact measures & case studies
7. Adopt a ‘marketing’ mindset for the service
8. Prepare for new staff before they start
9. Show real-terms cost savings for the business
10. Review subscriptions & identify ROI & VFM
11. Support new business initiatives
12. Be active & visible on Social Media
13. Advise on Data Protection
14. Support new products/services
15. Do your best for every enquiry
16. Create internal products
17. Provide insights on competitor strategies
18. Current awareness bulletins
19. Run an ‘Awareness Week’
20. Liaise with teams to select/evaluate resources
Many of these will be familiar to information professionals across all sectors – as we look to increase awareness of and engagement with Information Services, these strategies show how important it is to reach out and ‘be part of your community’!
CILIP would like to thank Alex Pooley of the Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group and Katherine Schopflin of the SLA for their advice and expertise in shaping this limited research exercise. CILIP plans to follow up on this survey to develop a richer understanding of the ways in which information professionals are demonstrating the value and impact they deliver for their companies and stakeholders.
Please share your thoughts and comments, along with additional ideas for advocacy using the hashtag #demonstratingimpact or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.