Magazine article Information Outlook

Survival Strategies in a Cost-Cutting Environment: In the United Kingdom and Other European Countries, Information Professionals Are Already Feeling the Effects of Cost-Cutting Measures. Here, They Share Some Valuable Survival Strategies

Magazine article Information Outlook

Survival Strategies in a Cost-Cutting Environment: In the United Kingdom and Other European Countries, Information Professionals Are Already Feeling the Effects of Cost-Cutting Measures. Here, They Share Some Valuable Survival Strategies

Article excerpt

In these uncertain times, as the global nature of the financial crisis unfolds, no one can be clear as to the medium- or long-term effects on our organizations or our own roles. Many of us have lived and worked through economic downturns in the past, but this is a new form of crisis. What are the implications for information professionals, and what are the key trends and challenges we should prepare for?

As Sylvia James discussed in her article in last month's issue of Information Outlook, (1) credit is the lifeblood of industry, and lack of credit availability is helping push global trade to a standstill. Against this background of financial uncertainly, other indicators of gloom have been announced in the United Kingdom. In October, the British government's Office for National Statistics released figures for the period up to August 2008, which showed both a rise in unemployment and a reduction in the number of job vacancies available. (2)

Many organizations will be facing difficult financial times. Following the injection of so much public money into the financial sector, there will be pressures in the public sector to reduce costs, while the general slowdown will affect private sector organizations.

As information professionals, we should consider how best we can serve our organizations as they move into a more strained financial landscape. We are a flexible profession, adept at developing our products and services to support our clients. In this new financial environment, we need to demonstrate how crucial effective information and knowledge services will be if our stakeholders are to maintain a competitive edge.

What new spaces can our already flexible professionals move into in order to better serve their organizations? Can we demonstrate that our organizations need the service of their information professionals even more in order for them to maintain a competitive edge?

Budget Restrictions

Cost-cutting is the order of the day. In the U.K. and other European countries, information professionals are already reporting that spending restrictions are having an impact on their work. When asked to identify the key trends affecting their role at present, one professional simply stated: "cost saving, cost saving, cost saving, cost saving."

Organizations will seek to audit expenditures much more closely and to cut costs accordingly. There will be an increased demand for better under-standing and streamlining of information use within the organization, irrespective of departmental or geographic boundaries. Vendor management strategies and agreements may need to be renegotiated. In some organizations, there may be a return to a centralized purchasing process to maximize value for money and to reduce departmental expenditure; in others, the opposite may be true, with a local approach to purchasing being seen as more appropriate.

As content budgets are trimmed, the information professional is best placed to audit the use of information sources and to evaluate value for money. To achieve this, professionals should be looking to review and update their content audit data.

At the same time, we should be looking for alternative, cheaper information sources. There will be a growth in the adoption of niche-related or specialist resources, while generalist resources may well be cut. Our library user customers will appreciate anything that provides greater value-added analysis or data visualization. Any product that can be demonstrated to save time (and money) will be highly valued by library and information service customers. To this end, information providers will continue to develop and refine services that provide the exact information to the point at which it is needed and at the right time and price.

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New Opportunities

As business strategies evolve to meet new challenges, we must develop our information products and service accordingly. …

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