Globalization of Corporate Information Centers
Strouse, Roger, Online
Corporate information centers in large enterprises are quickly moving toward increased global cooperation, creating a new set of challenges and opportunities. As a stark economy leads large companies to evaluate support units for potential savings, many companies are having to deal with a profusion of libraries, information centers, and other pockets of information that are not structured to meet the needs of the organization with maximum efficiency and cooperation. "Globalization" describes the creation of a unified and coordinated information center from what was previously a loose-knit group of independently operating information functions. For many organizations, this is the ultimate result of a strategic assessment. According to functional managers who have embarked on the globalization process, there are many compelling benefits for doing so, but also some substantial challenges.
GLOBALIZATION RACES AHEAD
Large corporations continue to look for economies of scale, and the key content management and deployment functions are no exception, as shown in Outsell's The Changing Roles of Content Deployment Functions, published in 2002 and updated in 2003. Twice as many information center respondents this year as opposed to last year (40 percent in 2003 versus 20 percent in 2002) report that their operation supports the global or enterprise-wide organization. There is also an increase in those who say they provide support for a major company or operating unit within their larger organization (up to 23 percent this year from 18 percent last year), and more are supporting multiple departments (18 percent vs. 12 percent in 2002). Further evidence for a globalization trend lies in the fact that information center respondents said an additional 7 percent of their vender contracts will become global over the next year, raising that figure to 64 percent.
Intelligence functions (market, business, and competitive intelligence) are experiencing a similar trend. These activities, too, increasingly support the global enterprise (41 percent of this year's respondents over 28 percent last year) or major companies or operating units within their enterprise (23 percent in 2003 vs. 19 percent in 2002).
Many factors drive the globalization of information centers, but a primary goal in nearly every instance is to take advantage of economies of scale while leveraging limited resources. While other worthy ends, such as standardization of service levels across the globe, equity in staff evaluation and expectations, 24/7 service availability, and brand uniformity, are clearly important, it's the issue of resources that is most critical in this urgent push to globalize.
Organizations embarking on globalizing information centers need to leek for highly compelling drivers, since the globalization process is, by all accounts, an energy-intensive and long-term task. The most commonly articulated triggers mentioned by those who are well into globalization are as follows:
* Working in closer concert with other information centers can help mitigate the effects of reduced staffing levels.
* Forming new or broader buying consortia with other content deployment sites can save money for the organization.
* Redundant content purchases and information center tasks can be more easily identified with increased cooperation and networks/systems.
* The user community can be better served through continuity, standardization, pervasive branding/marketing, and ubiquity of information centers services.
What's largely made globalization feasible is the market's increased focus on digital content and electronic deployment. Digital content makes it more practical to serve users who are remote and thus mitigates the need for an on-site information function at an organization's various locations.
CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
With most information centers under pressure to do more with less, gaining the maximum leverage from global resources--staff, technology, content--is the mantra driving many to coordinate their previously independent information centers. …