7 Ways to Improve Your Resource Bank: Effective Management of Your Organization's Information Assets Can Get You Answers More Quickly, Save Staff Time, and Preserve Institutional Memory

By North, Mary Anne | Information Outlook, February 2007 | Go to article overview
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7 Ways to Improve Your Resource Bank: Effective Management of Your Organization's Information Assets Can Get You Answers More Quickly, Save Staff Time, and Preserve Institutional Memory


North, Mary Anne, Information Outlook


In today's information-driven economy where nearly everyone is a "researcher" in some way, research asset management has become a critical competency. By implementing best practices for research asset management, you can not only deliver extraordinary value for your organization but also firmly cement your own role.

More than ever, success for many organizations depends on quickly finding and acting on various kinds of research assets. Yet even sizable organizations with otherwise sophisticated capabilities vary considerably in how, and how effectively, they manage these diverse research assets.

Research assets include internal information such as plans, presentations, and analyses, and external information such as news items, Web resources, magazines, and industry analyst reports. Research asset management is the combination of people, processes and technology by which an organization manages the high-value internal and external information assets that its professionals at all levels use to gain insights, plan, and execute.

Poor research asset management carries a high price tag. Employees are forced to spend time looking for information, instead of using that information in more strategic and creative ways. Poor "institutional memory" and inadequate information sharing are at best inefficient and at worst extremely damaging. Employees waste time recreating information that exists but can't be found. (In working with a top global consumer packaged goods company, consulting firm McKinsey estimated that the company's marketing organization was spending 40 percent of its time re-creating things.) They waste money purchasing duplicate information. It takes too long for new or transferring employees to get productive.

Effective research asset management, on the other hand, not only ensures your organization's success--it also ensures your success, by tightly linking your efforts to the company's overall objectives.

"Organizations that embrace best practices for research asset management typically are rigorous about the metrics for their organizations in general," said Phillip L. Green, Inmagic's president and CEO. "In talking with organizations about how they determine the payoff from effective research asset management, we consistently heard about 'operating smarter, faster, and cheaper,' and being able to leverage and 'institutionalize' their employees' best work."

By working with many organizations that have complex information needs (driven by organizational structure, velocity of internal change, or the number of staff and geographies), Inmagic identified seven themes for the effective management of research assets. The company also determined how organizations that are deploying these best practices gauge their effects and calculate their benefits.

Here's an overview of those practices, along with insights on how information professionals are implementing them.

1. Recognize the downside of the status quo.

Best practices organizations often didn't start that way. But at some point, they realized the downside of the status quo. They became acutely aware of the enormous yet often overlooked cost--in time, out-of-pocket expenses, and missed opportunities--of poorly managing their information assets. They committed to take a small percentage of what they spend to create/acquire that information, and invest it in people, processes, and technology to leverage that spending.

Sharon Hoepker is the corporate librarian at Jones & Stokes, a leading environmental planning and natural resources management consulting company. She notes, "As consultants, our product is information." The organizing and archiving of that information is crucial for the firm's productivity. The Jones & Stokes library collection includes some 25,000 hardcopy items, chiefly an archive of all the reports generated by the firm over its 35-year history. It also includes a library of topical hardcover books and now a growing digital collection of PDF versions of the company reports, stored on a document server.

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