Penny Leach ebic... reimagined
Jinfo Blog

Thursday, 16th April 2009

By Penny Leach

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On 19th March 2009 TFPL held an evening meeting as part of their TFPL Connect programme. The topic was 'Themes and reflections from ebic 2008'.

Three speakers -- introduced by Barbara Linkin of Kroll -- reflected on the presentations and discussions they had attended at ebic 2008 (held in Berlin, October 2008) and highlighted takeaways for themselves and other knowledge and information management professionals.

Di Martin, CIO & Dean of Learning information Service (LIS), University of Hertfordshire, took the perspectives of different commercial organisations and applied them to her own large academic but increasingly commercially-oriented institution. Her focus was on three concepts - adaptability, business value and people power - in a loose interpretation of the green, blue and orange world planning scenario sessions at ebic 2008.

Adaptability: Jessica Frankel of Credit Suisse had related that in economic turbulent times the tendency of management is to become inward-looking, to avoid change and cut cost, whereas in fact organisations need to develop, innovate and invest. At Hertfordshire in the LIS they are introducing more technology (such as adding ebooks to the virtual desktop) while taking a risk management approach (including cost reduction).

Business value: Tony Sheehan of Ashridge Business School had spoken of the need to align information service priorities with those of their organisation and use business intelligence to support management decisions. At Hertfordshire, specialists now work with the different faculties, to embed LIS services into academic and student life, and there is a structured programme to integrate and standardise data management and business intelligence applications, for greater efficiency.

People power: Di talked about the increasing use of social networks as part of the collaborative culture with students engaging with each other (in contrast to the more silo'd approach of the academics), and the increasingly open nature of the educational resources. She noted that it raises a question for the future of universities -- what is their USP?

Iain Simpson of BDO Stoy Hayward looked at future technology following in Paul Saffo's ebic footsteps. Rather than slides he used live websites to demonstrate his point that the next big thing is in many instances already here, and what many see as new -- for example Twitter -- has in many cases been around sometime (Iain admitted he was Twittering to himself over 2 years ago!). His thesis was that it is not technology that is changing but cultural practice - Web 1.0 was about connecting people to information, Web 2.0 people to people, Web 3.0 everything to everything. He predicted the death of email with the growth of virtual communities and opportunities for conversation via social media. Iain encouraged experimentation (along the lines of the 23 Things learning experience from the SLA Innovation Lab) with holographic technology (as a green alternative to air travel), surface technology and data visualisation (see http://addictomatic.com/ for example).

Don Roll, Managing Director of Alacra, bought the delegates down to earth -- in his experience it takes a long time for the kind of technological advances Iain had highlighted to become part of the business practices of client companies, regardless of how ready supplying companies such as his own are. Don used slides from the ebic presentations and looked at the new business delivery models illustrated from different perspectives -- a hardware vendor (Lynne Collier of Hitachi), a content provider (Mark Bootherstone of Dow Jones), and a semantics software company (Jeremy Bentley of Smartlogic). Hitachi is an extreme example of a company that has aimed to outsource whatever is not its core competency; Don perceives that this is a trend that has a long way to run in the knowledge and information information marketplace, particularly in credit crunch times (Integreon's recent announcement with regard to Osborne Clarke's business operation transfer is an example).

Mark at Dow Jones had looked at the power of instant knowledge (with Factiva providing examples), and the fact we need to get past information overload to not merely relevancy but context . People want to know what's important to them right now; Addictomatic was mentioned again, and Don added another example, Kosmix.com. Key to overcoming silos of information is semantic middleware, such as Smartlogic's Semaphore.

Jeremy had likened corporate silos to a supermarket of unlabelled tins -- adding metadata and links speeds up retrieval, relevancy and the bringing together of content for informed decisions. Don however saw corporate progress as slow. However he ended with another view of web evolution - Web 1.0 = information retrieval, Web 2.0 = knowledge and information management desktop portals but silo'd, Web 3.0 = building of KIM ontologies to bring together internal and external content and break the silos. In the Q&A session afterwards delegates talked about some of the barriers to information sharing -- such as the need for information integrity -- and the way sharing is becoming more and more the norm.

It was clear from the networking afterwards that many of those attending had not been at ebic, but felt they had gained an immense amount of insight.

Penny Leach is the Secretary and Awards Chair of SLA Europe.



Coverage of ebic appears in the following issues of VIP Magazine:

VIP published an exclusive report of commentary submitted by participants at ebic 2008. Request your free copy of commentary and reflection.

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